In Brief

Landmark case ‘could decriminalise street prostitution in the UK’

Law that currently treats prostitutes as perpetrators rather than victims ‘in breach of Modern Slavery Act’

A landmark case being heard by the High Court could effectively lead to the decriminalisation of street prostitution in Britain.

A group of women, some of whom have chosen to remain anonymous, are arguing that former prostitutes should not be made to reveal their criminal convictions and should instead be treated as victims of modern slavery. They say current law breaches their right to privacy and is contrary to the UK’s legal obligations in respect to the Modern Slavery Act.

Under the Street Offences Act 1959, those convicted of prostitution must make their histories known when applying for jobs or volunteering activity.

Harriet Wistrich, the solicitor representing the women, told The Independent that laws which treat prostitutes as perpetrators rather than victims were out of touch with modern society.

“It is utterly outrageous that those who suffered that form of abuse and exploitation are being penalised many years later when they’re trying to get their lives back together again,” she said.

Wistrich claims that victory in the case could lead to the decriminalisation of prostitution for women on the street selling sex, and shift the focus of police and prosecutors to those in “control” of the trade – the pimps and those buying sex.

The case is expected to last until tomorrow.

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