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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 18:17 GMT
Backing for kerb-crawlers penalty
Generic picture of prostitution
The new law will criminalise the purchaser of sex for the first time
Measures to strengthen new prostitution legislation have been backed by a committee of MSPs.

The proposed new law will be extended to cover kerb-crawlers, who could face fines of up to 1,000.

The Scottish Executive is also in talks with Westminster about proposals for kerb-crawlers to be disqualified from driving and have their car confiscated.

The committee agreed to changes after the bill was criticised for not punishing people who pay for sex.

The bill, which went before the local government and transport committee, means that for the first time people who buy sex could be prosecuted.

Originally the bill would have criminalised both soliciting and loitering for the purposes of prostitution when it would cause alarm, nuisance or offence.

However, in the original bill, loitering would not have been an offence if the person was in a private car and that omission led to criticism

Legislative measure

The changes mean that if it can reasonably be "inferred" that somebody was loitering on foot or in a car in a bid to buy sex they can be prosecuted.

Committee members Fergus Ewing welcomed the changes but acknowledged that no legislative measure could fully eradicate prostitution.

The SNP MSP for Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber said: "If it is the case that men will now be prosecuted for going to women for sex then that sends out a very clear message indeed that we do not accept prostitution in Scotland.

Fergus Ewing MSP
Mr Ewing said the law would deter men who currently use prostitutes

"I believe that it is morally wrong but I also believe that as well as that it has been the source of the perpetration of abuse of women and violence against women since time immemorial.

"By sending a very clear message that this conduct will be criminalised that is bound to deter many men who currently go to prostitutes from doing so in the future and if we achieve that we will have achieved something very worthwhile indeed."

Deputy Public Services Minister George Lyon gave executive backing to amendments that removed any reference to alarm, offence and nuisance and to changes which made buying sex an offence in itself.

He stopped short of decriminalising the selling of sex as he said it could make it easier for people to be coerced into prostitution by being told it was not illegal.

Street prostitutes

The minister said the changes would lead to tougher laws than those recently agreed in England and Wales.

However, Independent MSP Margo MacDonald said the legislation discriminates against street prostitutes because it will not criminalise those who work indoors.

Ms McDonald, who withdrew amendments of her own and had some rejected by the committee, warned MSPs the new powers would not necessarily lead to a tougher stance being taken by the authorities.

"If any of the committee members imagine if by passing this legislation they are going to reprioritise the police operations I think are going to be disappointed in that," she said.


SEE ALSO
Restrictions on buying sex backed
17 Jan 07 |  Scotland
Prostitution law action pledged
09 Jan 07 |  Scotland
Police warning over new sex law
31 Oct 06 |  Scotland
Bill cracks down on kerb crawlers
18 Sep 06 |  Scotland
MSP scraps her prostitution bill
29 Nov 05 |  Scotland
Soliciting law should be changed
16 Dec 04 |  Scotland

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