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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 19:53 GMT
Restrictions on buying sex backed
Glasgow prostitute
The new legislation will criminalise kerb crawlers
MSPs have voted to support a new law to make kerb-crawling illegal in order to criminalise the purchaser of sex for the first time.

Members voted in favour of the general principles of the Prostitution Bill.

Men convicted could lose their driving licence and have their cars seized. The maximum penalty for clients will be set at 1,000.

Opposition MSPs described the Scottish Executive's decision to toughen up the law as a u-turn.

The changes come after Holyrood's local government committee, which examined the bill, warned that it would fail unless it was altered.

Sex purchasers

The offence of loitering will be extended to cover kerb-crawling with the intention of seeking a prostitute.

The new offence will only apply to the purchasers of sex, and the existing law will be kept to deal with the prostitutes themselves.

The legislation was debated at its first stage in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday.

The SNP's Fergus Ewing, who was on the committee that criticised the original bill, said the issue was one of violence against women.

We have to ensure that men are prosecuted, that men are turned into criminals, that men face the full force of the law
Fergus Ewing
SNP MSP

He said: "We have to ensure that men are prosecuted, that men are turned into criminals, that men face the full force of the law."

Mr Ewing added that the bill as drafted had effectively offered a defence to kerb-crawlers stating that no offence was committed if the person buying sex was in a motor vehicle which was "not public transport".

Local Government Minister Tom McCabe said that the new law would apply throughout Scotland, after concerns that it may not be enforced in informal prostitution management zones.

Mr McCabe said: "The only management zone currently in operation is in Aberdeen.

"Grampian Police and Aberdeen City Council have already indicated that they will review its operation in light of the bill."

Great disappointment

Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said the bill was a "great disappointment".

The veteran politician, who previously called for formal prostitution tolerance zones to be established, questioned the bill's ability to cut the number of men buying sexual services.

She told the chamber: "The bill fails to achieve the means whereby duties of care can be exercised towards sex workers who have the right not to be beaten and injured, and the general community that has every right not to be alarmed or annoyed by the activities surrounding prostitution."

Green MSP Mark Ballard told parliament he was "very disappointed" with the proposed legislation

He said: "As a parliament, we have really ducked the issue about whether selling and buying sex is illegal, or whether we can tolerate it as long as it happens in a way that doesn't cause public nuisance."


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SEE ALSO
Prostitution law action pledged
09 Jan 07 |  Scotland
Police warning over new sex law
31 Oct 06 |  Scotland
Men spend 6.6m on sex in Glasgow
23 May 06 |  Glasgow and West

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