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EDITIONS
Friday, 5 July, 2002, 05:31 GMT 06:31 UK
Attacks rise after tolerance scrapped
Money being handed to a prostitute
The Leith initiative was scrapped last year
Attacks on prostitutes have increased since a controversial tolerance zone was scrapped in Edinburgh, according to a welfare organisation.

The long-running experiment in Leith came to an end in November following complaints from residents.

The prostitute welfare organisation Scotpep said it has seen 11 attacks on women during the six months after the abolition of the scheme - the same number as in the whole of the previous year.

The disclosure came as Scottish National Party MSP Margo MacDonald unveiled her proposed legislation to make tolerance zones legal.


Clients are taking advantage of the fact that the women are not working collectively together,

Ruth Morgan Thomas
Scotpep
Ruth Morgan Thomas, of Scotpep, told BBC Scotland that the organisation had seen "a different pattern" of attacks in recent months.

"Clients are taking advantage of the fact that the women are not working collectively together," she said.

"We had one client who came back the same night and attacked a second woman because the women didn't have the ability to communicate any more and warn one another about the attack."

She said that the women working the streets would continue to do so with or without the zone.

And she added: "We have seen an increase in drug dealers coming into the area, in men coming in to 'mind' women.

Tolerance zones

"Those are the things which, in other cities, create far greater nuisance than the women themselves in areas where street prostitution occurs."

Scotpep also reported the first instances in two years of prostitutes under the age of 16 working in the city.

Ms MacDonald's proposed legislation would make tolerance zones legal, allowing street prostitutes to ply their trade without fear of arrest.

Her Bill would allow local authorities to set up and police defined areas.

Margo MacDonald
Margo MacDonald unveiled her proposals
As it is soliciting in public which is illegal, a tolerance zone would no longer be defined as a public place for the purposes of the bill.

However debating time is tight - and it is questionable whether the Bill could become law in the lifetime of the current parliament.

Police in Aberdeen set up a tolerance zone in the harbour area of the city in January.

Sited in a mainly industrial and commercial area, it was aimed at protecting prostitutes from violence.

In Edinburgh, police had unofficially tolerated the activities of prostitutes in Leith since the early 1980s to make it easier for health agencies to regulate the spread of HIV.

Local opposition

The prostitutes were given strict guidelines, such as when they could congregate and how many people would be permitted in the area.

However, the zone was switched from Coburg Street to Salamander Street in August following complaints from residents.

The second site also met local opposition and was abandoned in November - only days after Ms MacDonald lodged the Prostitute Tolerance Zones (Scotland) Bill.

Her proposals were the subject of a consultation period which ended in May.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Isabel Fraser reports
"Women working in tolerance zones are not arrested for soliciting"
Margo MacDonald MSP
"Street prostitution will probably always be with us."
See also:

31 May 02 | Scotland
28 Jan 02 | Scotland
30 Nov 01 | Scotland
03 Aug 01 | Scotland
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