Hampshire’s sex workers at risk in coronavirus lockdown ‘fear prosecution for breaching social distancing’

SEX workers are not reporting assaults as they fear being prosecuted for breaking coronavirus lockdown law, police have said.

By Ben Fishwick
Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 4:13 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 6:42 pm

Agencies across Hampshire, including anti-slavery groups, have raised concerns the county‘s prostitutes are facing a raft of risks during the restrictions.

Among them is an unwillingness to report violence they are subjected to in case police then criminalise them for lockdown breaches.

Agencies report a drop in access health services, including sexual health screening, and sex workers addicted to class A drugs no longer being prescribed methadone.

Sex worker file photo. Picture: Carl de Souza/AFP via Getty Images

This is seeing them still working to fund their illicit drug habit, increasing their risk to Covid-19 transmission and falling into debt with criminals.

This has emerged as Hampshire‘s assistant police and crime commissioner Enzo Riglia revealed the launch of The Modern Slavery Partnership‘s new anti-slavery strategy.

It is designed to identify more victims but also increase prosecutions for slave masters.

Mr Riglia said: ‘The strategy covers the next three years, but immediate concerns have been raised by partners, in particular in relation to the safety of sex workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘Police and crime commissioner, Michael Lane, has already awarded a small grant to Amber Chaplains (in Southampton) for vital supplies for their outreach work, to help keep them and the women they support safe.

‘A further grant has been awarded to Medaille Trust for their work supporting victims of slavery.’

His office confirmed the pandemic has posed a slew of risks to sex workers.

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Massage parlours have closed, and there is a drop in on and off-street work, with sex workers using the internet also seeing a drop income as they may be self-isolating with family.

Children are being put at risk as sex workers turn to use their own homes, also causing a ‘greater risk of cuckooing when drug dealers visit their homes‘.

Mr Riglia said: ‘Modern day slavery within the UK remains a significant threat and the number of victims being identified continues to increase year on year – both in the UK and in the Hampshire policing area.

‘As a partnership it is vital that we continue to play our part in supporting these highly vulnerable people and fight to bring those accountable for their suffering to justice.’

Both the Medaille Trust and Amber Chaplains were awarded £500 each from the commissioner’s office.

The church-based chaplains in Southampton support sex workers, and the trust is spending the money on technology for victims in a safe house so they can continue to access support.

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