Children’s rights campaigners are making a second bid to remove the
threat of prosecution from child prostitutes for loitering or
Labour MP and former social worker Hilton Dawson has tabled an
amendment to the Children Bill that would decriminalise
prostitution by young people.
He was persuaded to drop a similar amendment to the Sexual Offences
Bill last year after assurances from the then Home Office minister
Beverley Hughes that this would be dealt with in a review of the
Street Offences Act 1959.
But, in July the review concluded that there were “compelling
arguments” why under-18s should still be liable for prosecution for
loitering or soliciting, “to underline the message that
prostitution involving children and young people is wholly
Terri Dowty, policy director with Action on Rights for Children,
said that in practice under-18s are almost never prosecuted as
Crown Prosecution Service guidelines state that young prostitutes
should be regarded as victims.
“But guidance is not enough,” she said. “The law needs to be
explicit, otherwise it’s not safe for children in prostitution to
go to the police and ask for help.
“Child protection has a higher priority than keeping the streets
clear. These children are in need of help.”