Leeds' managed red light zone should stay, report finds

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image captionThe report found sex workers said the zone had "significantly improved their health and safety"

A managed red light district in Leeds should stay in place, a report has found.

The Managed Approach (MA) area in Holbeck allows sex workers to operate freely between 20:00 and 06:00.

Started in 2014, it has attracted criticism with some residents and businesses holding protests claiming it attracts anti-social behaviour.

An independent review has found the community should have more of a say on how it is run, relying less on police.

Researchers from the University of Huddersfield were commissioned by Leeds City Council to review the policy.

Professor Jason Roach, who led the investigation, contacted other police forces to ask how they were managing the issue.

"They replied and are basically doing a lot of the same," he said.

"There is no panacea or silver bullet out there in which to get rid of the managed approach and substitute it with another approach.

"In fact [it] is leading nationally."

Holbeck "managed approach"

  • Started in October 2014 and extended in 2015 following a review
  • Women are allowed to sell sex within the zone between 20:00 and 06:00
  • No offences are tolerated within residential areas or outside open businesses
  • Numbers fluctuate, but 12-15 women usually work in the area each night
  • Drug use, trafficking, organised crime, coercion and indecency "will at no time be tolerated", the current list of rules states
  • Leeds City Council works with various charities and agencies to provide support to sex workers and help them leave the sex industry

Sources: Leeds City Council/Basis Yorkshire

The report said "70% of those residents and community members who were interviewed said that the MA should remain but needed to change in some way".

Only 120 residents responded to the survey and the report's authors said the 6% response rate meant "the findings cannot be taken as representative of the people of Holbeck".

However, the majority of residents surveyed said they had witnessed an increase in sex worker and drug use within the zone.

It added "women and those with children that reported feeling least safe walking/travelling through Holbeck and who were the least optimistic in terms of the MA meeting the strategic aims."

Sex workers said that the zone had "significantly improved their health and safety" and their relationship with the police had improved, leading to an increase in their reporting of crime.

The recommendations will now be discussed by the council.

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