A CHARITY that represents sex workers has hit out at Police Scotland over a number of arrests for prostitution in the city centre during the pandemic. 

Umbrella Lane says that the charges “punished” women who were trying to make ends meet as some struggled to access financial support during Covid-19.

Figures revealed through a Freedom of Information request show that there were eight arrests made for prostitution offences in the area over the last two years.

While police insist that enforcement was taken to crackdown on organised gangs and sexual exploitation, Umbrella Lane argues that some workers would have been left with no other choice but to take to the streets. 

Glasgow Times:

A spokesperson for the charity said: “It is saddening to see that even in the midst of a global pandemic, police efforts still included targeting those attempting to survive, arresting them rather than supporting them in getting the resources they needed so that they did not have to put themselves in danger. 

“The driving force for those engaging in sex work is economic need, and punishing sex workers through arrests and penalties fails to address the root cause of the issue. 

“Laws which punish sex workers are symptomatic of a system which fails to protect them.”

The figures show that there has been an overall decrease of prostitution offences in the city centre in the last three years – falling from 15 charges in 2018 to five last year. 

Meanwhile, for the whole of Glasgow, the number of crimes associated with prostitution has fallen dramatically from 322 in 2011/12 to 27 in 2020/21. 

In May 2020 – during the national lockdown – an investigation led by the Glasgow Times revealed Glaswegians were flouting Covid rules to meet up with strangers for sex. 

Dozens of online listings on website Craigslist offered cash rewards for “fun” and sex. Those posting adverts made offers for customers to either travel to the stranger’s accommodation or host them themselves.

The spokesperson from Umbrella Lane added: “The statistics demonstrated in the FOI request are unsurprising, as sex workers who were able to move away from in-person work during the pandemic did so. 

“Many sought out alternative forms of income where available, whether that was moving to online income streams or applying for Universal Credit or SEIS. However, not every sex worker has been able to do this, and these are often those who are the poorest and most marginalised, and have the least access to resources. 

“When forced to choose between working and earning money to survive, and not working and being unable to pay rent or buy food, it is obvious that survival takes precedence.”

Glasgow Times: Detective Superintendent Fil Capaldi Detective Superintendent Fil Capaldi

Detective Superintendent Fil Capaldi admitted that crimes associated with prostitution in Glasgow may have decreased during the pandemic due to sex work being moved online. 

He said: “We recognise that some people freely choose to be involved in prostitution, however a significant number of people are being forced, coerced and exposed to the risk of violence, abuse and exploitation.

"Our approach to tackling sexual exploitation is focused on the welfare and safety of those involved and identifying criminal gangs who pose a threat.

"Selling sex in a public place is a criminal offence and Police Scotland has a statutory duty to enforce the law.   

“This data shows the number of arrests for public prostitution has reduced by two thirds over the past four years, but this may reflect the move from on to off street prostitution.  
“However, our primary concern remains to ensure people are safe and we will continue to work with partners to address the welfare and safety of people engaged in prostitution. Where there is information to suggest people may be at risk of harm we will take action.”