The UK’s First Prostitution-free Zone Created in Hull

Earlier this month, Hull City Council ​won a landmark ruling to create Britain's first "prostitution-free zone." The new orders mean that any sex workers or kerb crawlers caught around the Hessle Road area can be arrested and forced to appear in court. Hull City Council was granted the injunction order under Section 222 of the Local Government Act 1972.

Graham Paddock, the council's neighbourhood nuisance team leader, hailed the ruling was a great result for the community, saying: “The way we have tried to tackle the problem of prostitution up to now has had limited success so hopefully this approach will stamp out the problem.”

However, some say that rather than stamping it out, the ruling would instead move sex workers to other, less safe areas, as was seen in the US when the District of Columbia created a prostitution-free zone.

In a statement, the charity Lighthouse, whose aim is “to help women exit prostitution,” but is still the only organisation offering outreach to sex workers, said:

"While we are pleased Hull City Council has taken the matter seriously, we are concerned that if women can no longer work on these streets, they will either be pushed to work off-street in more dangerous situations, move to other streets where the same problems will occur, or they will be requesting help to exit prostitution.”

Vice spoke to a sex worker working at the side of Hessle Road who placed the blame for the crackdown on Hull’s being designed UK City of Culture 2017.

"They've only started bothering [to crack down on the sex trade] since [Hull] got the City of Culture," she said. "People have been doing it for years and years round here, and they've never done nowt about it. Now the City of Culture's here and that's it, they want to stop it. All [the injunction] will do is move people to a different place; I don't think they'll ever stop it. They've done town, they've done Hessle Road... it'll probably be further out on Anlaby Road next.

Local councillor Daren Hale told Vice that planned City of Culture events along Hessle Road were being affected by the presence of sex workers, and that the prostitution-free zone would help to solve that issue. "We want people to have a positive view of Hull," he said. "But I'd hate to think people are thinking we're gentrifying just because of the City of Culture. It's not just about that; it's linked to regeneration."

He said an "olive branch" had been offered to the women in the form of an industrial estate at the back of Hessle Road, which is deserted at night.

"Often the women want to ply their trade on well-lit roads or major thoroughfares, where they feel safer, and I can understand that," he said. "I do have sympathy for the women, but first and foremost I've got to have sympathy for those who live in my community, which is suffering because of this issue. I also accept that there's a risk [that the sex workers will move to other deprived residential areas]."

On Sunday, December 14th, the first order was served on a sex worker.