An excellent post by Rachel (as always) on attitudes to prostitution and drugs in the light of the murders in Suffolk; as she says, it’s certainly a sea-change from the
the news reporting and reaction to the Yorkshire Ripper case, notorious for comments such as ‘ he may now move to innocent victims’
As I recall — and not only was I around at the time, my then girlfriend and I were living in Leeds — no one, or no one outside the immediate area, seemed to get particularly worried until he murdered Jayne MacDonald, his first victim who wasn’t a prostitute. My girlfriend worked in Bradford and the worry about her walking to and from the railway station in the dark mornings and evenings was one of the main reasons we bought our first car.
Rachel says, ‘Legalise prostitution,’ and I completely agree. Prostitution itself isn’t, of course, illegal in the UK. Soliciting is, however, which effectively criminalises the women who can’t work in the safer (and I’d imagine more lucrative) environments of massage parlours and the certainly more lucrative environments of expensive hotels. Keeping a brothel is also illegal, so that stops them from getting together and working out of a flat; the only legal way to work out of a flat on your own, which must be even more dangerous than working on the street. You can’t even have a pimp or minder for protection because he’ll be living of your immoral earnings.
I’m sometimes accused of being a libertarian, which I’m not. I do, however, think we should have as few laws as possible, since the business of government is not to tell us how to behave but to let us get on with our own lives in our own way, intervening only when our so doing brings us into conflicts with each other than we can’t amicably settle between ourselves. And I’m certainly not in favour of laws that are completely unenforceable and do more harm than good, which pretty much describes laws on prostitution, to my mind.
People raise worries about women being exploited by pimps; well, there’s a simple answer to that. There are plenty of laws against beating up women and forcing them to give you all their earnings or income support or whatever. What’s wrong with using them? There’s also the objection that street prostitution is ‘anti-social behaviour’ — so, deplorably, ASBOs are being abused in some areas to, in effect, change soliciting from a summary offence punishable only by a fine into an indictable one punishable by up to five years in prison. Well, my late wife and I spent several years living down by King’s Cross — people who know London will know what that implies — and, while she found being hassled by kerb-crawlers a bit of a nuisance on her way home from work, in general it was no more anti-social than any other down-market area. Very handy for the City and the West End, though, and, while a bit noisy at times, certainly preferable to living just off Tottenham Court Road, which we also did, briefly.
I’d enter the caveat, though, that legalisation isn’t going to put an end to street prostitution; since it’s the bottom end of the employment market in that field, the women thus working are presumably there because they can’t get jobs in the more lucrative sectors. There are several obvious reasons, problems with drink and drugs being one of the main ones. I’m only hypothesizing here, never having run a brothel or massage parlour, but I’d be a bit wary of hiring a druggie to work for me in one for the same reasons I wouldn’t particularly want to hire someone with a drugs problem to work in an office, shop or behind a bar — they tend to be disorganised and generally flakey.
Rachel also wants to legalise drugs, and says she’s going to write on the subject soon; I look forward to reading it. I’m all in favour of legalisation, in principle, anyway, but I do have one big worry. I can see that it’s perfectly possible to keep someone on a maintenance dose of heroin, and it makes entirely good sense to me that we should let addicts have it on the NHS rather than put them to the trouble of becoming serial shop-lifters, burglars and robbers (which is normally how you fund a drugs habit if you aren’t a prostitute or a high earner). Might save the rest of us a few problems, too.
We’ve thus dealt with people addicted to heroin. However, can you similarly give people maintenance doses of crack and meth? I ask because I do not know, but from what little I understand of the drugs’ effects, it sounds a bit doubtful. Does anyone know? And if you can’t, then how does legalisation work for them? Do we just let meth and crack-heads buy their stuff from legal outlets and get on with it until they run out of money, while continuing to deal with whatever craziness they get up to while they’re stoned as would we with any other sort of foolishness? And what happens when they run out of money for it? I understand the analogy that’s frequently used with people being dependant on alcohol, but my impression is that crack-heads tend to be a tad more boisterous than do most drunks and that they also get a lot more desperate for some more than do most alcoholics when they run out. I’m not raising this as an objection to legalisation, particularly — as I said, I want to legalise drugs, but it does seem a problem of which we need to be aware.
Rachel also provides a link to a demented article by A. N. Wilson that claims Kate Moss and Pete Doherty are to blame in some way for the Suffolk murders. That’s right; it’s their fault, really. I won’t waste time on its full idiocy other than to note that the logical consequence, unless we have one sentencing policy for rock stars and another one for everyone else, of his complaint that
Pete Doherty, her rock star boyfriend, is another case in point. Only this month, he was had up (yet again) for possession and abuse of Class A drugs.
Rather than being given an exemplary prison sentence, which would have hit the headhavelines in the newspapers and sent a clear message to any of his potential admirers and imitators among our young people, he was given a paltry £770 fine.
would be to put the young women whose plight so concerns him in prison, serving exemplary sentences, too. Keep out of harm’s way for a bit (well, not from self-harm; rather the opposite) I suppose, but I don’t think that’s what he meant.
tag: Drugs, Prostitution, Social Policy