Prostitution in Eastville pt. 567

As exercises in futility go, Bristol East Labour MP Kerry McCarthy’s backing of New Labour’s latest Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – only the 55th such bill they’ve introduced! – as a solution to the street prostitution problem in Eastville must take some beating.

Kerry’s attitude to the street prostitution problem that people in Eastville have now endured for over ten years without respite is nicely encapsulated on her blog today where she trivialises the issue as much as the Tories she’s complaining about by turning it into an opportunity for some pointless Punch ‘n’ Judy party politiking.

The fact is that the Labour Party has no boasting rights whatsoever on this issue, which has consistently and persistently demonstrated the abject failure of the police, the council and politicians to resolve a straightforward social problem that’s blighted an area of the city for far too long.

McCarthy is simply the latest on a long list of liberal-sounding Labour ladies making the right kind of polite ‘wimmin-friendly’ noises while dismally failing to deliver any change on the ground whatsoever. Those with slightly longer memories will perhaps recall former Bristol East MP Jean Corston and Labour council leader Diane Bunyan promising action on this issue too. What happened to that? And the money for their prostitution forum for that matter?

This time round McCarthy is supporting a few changes to the law and then a policy based on the same old criminal justice solutions to street prostitution that have all been done before. The fact is that over the last ten years in Eastville there’s been police and criminal justice-led initiative after police and criminal justice-led initiative and alleged police crackdown after police crackdown, all of which appear to have failed.

This is because the law is not the problem. Adequate laws already exist to deal with street prostitution in Eastville; it’s just that the police do not choose to use them properly, consistently or over a prolonged period. Many people believe this is due to an informal policing arrangement to contain Bristol’s street prostitution within certain areas of the city. One of these areas being Eastville.

What’s required to solve this problem is not Kerry’s electorally attractive politics of sitting in the centre ground making middle England-pleasing noises about yet more criminal justice initiatives but a politics of hard choices and reality. In the case of Eastville that means the introduction of a short-term approach and a long-term approach.

In the short-term there does indeed need to be an immediate and prolonged crackdown on street prostitution in Eastville that goes on for as long as it takes to get the pimps, the prostitutes, the dealers, the kerb crawlers and any other scumbags off their streets permanently. This means that the coppers and the politicians need to knuckle down, stop cooing over street prostitutes as tragic victims and sort out what needs to be done on behalf of a long-suffering community.

This is, of course, a short term measure that will simply move the problem elsewhere. But don’t the people of Eastville deserve a break? Perhaps the coppers could shunt the problem to Redcliffe where certain MPs spend their weekends and their union backers work every day. It’d be interesting to see their response to this shit on their doorstep.

In the longer term the city needs to accept that street prostitution is a social problem that the criminal justice system is failing to solve. The future must lie in forms of decriminalisation or legalisation perhaps including the introduction of areas of safety or properly legislated and agreed tolerance zones rather than these arbitrary tolerance zones currently operated to suit the Avon & Somerset’s needs.

This was of course precisely the position the city was moving towards in late 2005 when a cross-party consensus was reached at the city council – supported by the police’s own vice team and voluntary groups like the BDP – to pursue just such policies.

However the policy never got off the ground after it was unilaterally kiboshed by press release from Chief Constable Colin Port. During the Christmas holidays in 2005 he famously took it upon himself, with no consultation with anybody at all, to announce that “a zero tolerance campaign against kerb crawlers and prostitutes will be launched next month” and that “the plans for licensed red light zones have been shelved”.

The results of that crackdown – and the many that have followed it – are still here for all to see on the Fishponds Road, Eastville every night. Unfortunately McCarthy, it seems, is happy to follow in Port’s slipstream on this, supporting even more of this pointless, tough-talking crap that simply doesn’t work.

This entry was posted in Bristol, Eastville, Labour Party, MPs, Policing, Politics, Redcliffe and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Prostitution in Eastville pt. 567

  1. Keren says:

    Shift the problem to Redcliff? We’ve got enough problems S of the R, without decanting N of the R problems down here. Shift it into Cotham, Clifton and Sneyd Park please. I’m assuming we get to vote where it goes.

  2. Woodsy says:

    I agree with Keren, don’t shift the problem to Redcliffe! As for the other areas she mentions, aren’t they bordered by the Downs, which already have sufficient genital juggling.

    My vote is for moving the ladies and their customers to College Green, right in front of the Counts Louse. Only then might you see some action taken.

    As for the attitude of the police, I remember some 5-6 years ago being fobbed off with some waffle at a public meeting when I tackled the then inspector from Trinity about their lack of enforcement of the law on soliciting: you’re right, nothing has changed in the attitudes of the powers that be in this city.

  3. BristleKRS says:

    My vote is for moving the ladies and their customers to College Green, right in front of the Counts Louse. Only then might you see some action taken.

    Ooerr, not ‘alf, fnarr, and all on expenses… [etc] 😉

  4. thebristolblogger says:

    I don’t really care where they move the problem to be honest. It just needs to be moved and the people in Eastville should be given a break and maybe the headteacher at Millpond Primary could do something more useful every morning than inspect every square inch of the school field for used condoms and needles?

    I’m actually suggesting the part of Redcliffe north of Redcliffe Way around Victoria Street and Redcliffe Street. This is now a very wealthy part of town. It’s also where McCarthy spends weekends and it’s got the T&G’s Transport House in the middle of it. I thought it’d be good for trade unionists to see close up the reality of the 54 Criminal Justice Acts they’ve now funded to no effect over the last 10 years.

    The one blindingly obvious fact in all this is that street prostitution should not be left where it is if, as McCarthy claims she wants to tackle “the issue of curbing demand”.

    Currently the three key hotspots – Millpond, Eastville and Portland Square – are ideally located on or near motorway junctions making it easy for punters from Wales and the south west to pop into Bristol, use a street prostitute and pop out again. Surely zero tolerance at these locations would cut demand? How much of this business is coming from out of town?

    Just by relocating the problem deeper into the city would achieve McCarthy’s aims. Why has no one told her this? Colin Port and the coppers know this for sure.

  5. Gary Hopkins says:

    In actual fact a couple of areas with no residents were identified as possibilities for zones to displace the activity to by safer Bristol under the previous administration and the matter could have been dealt with by cracking down hard in residential areas and turning a blind eye in designated areas. Police on the ground were keen but as some degree of protection would have to be offered to girls in designated areas senior police were worried about the appearance and being seen to allow lawbreaking.
    Another case where legislation gets in the way of practical solutions.

  6. Ken Local says:

    Oh I see! Councillor Hopkins believes women should be exploited, drug dealers and pimps should have a safe place to make money!

    What a complete and utter joke. The problem needs to be stamped out not encouraged somewhere else!

    Your a joke and have no understanding of the real problem let alone of the problems those who have to live and work near this.

    Another politician completely out of touch with reality.

  7. Jon Freeman says:

    Ken, the problem of street prostitution will not go away. All the police, council and others have achieved in the last 30 years or so is to move the centre of this trade from St Pauls to Eastville. So given the problem is here to stay, surely there is merit in the idea of moving it out of residential areas. At least that way there would fewer victims – I refer to ordinary residents going about their lawful business who are sick of being propositioned by curb crawlers.

  8. Yellowbelly says:

    A few years ago it appeared that David Blunkett was prepared to change the law and allow continental style tolerance zones. Yet once he was gone his Deputy Fiona MacTaggart reneged on that. Gary Hopkins is right, plans were afoot to move the problem from Easton and Eastville, but now the Police are reluctanmt to do so.

    The useless boys in blus at Avon & Soomerset also promised residents CCTV to catch kerb crawlers 18 months ago, yet there is no sign of it ever appearing.

  9. Pingback: Full of Eastern promise? « The Bristol Blogger

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  11. Marriage says:


    Let us discuss about a marriage where a woman sold her body for money and also few other things. She is the heroine of this story and lives in a conservative society, where pretenses are at times more important than truth. Our heroine was in deep love with a married man but had no guts to say so.

  12. sherbert says:

    Hi, we are doing a debate on this exact topic this Sunday on a live BBC1 TV show in Brisol. If you are interested, get in touch with me on


  13. thebristolblogger says:

    Any takers?

    Vowlsie, James? Get yerself on telly prior to the election …

  14. Come you politicians, here’s a chance to spout forth, Vowelsie, come on boy, the GP have some good policies regarding shagging for dosh, put yourself forward boy… and you James, you’re a Tory… your lot have never been backward when it comes to getting fresh… let’s see what you’ve got to say…

  15. Steve Comer says:

    People may think its funny to make a joke about this for internet politicians, but this problem is not funny for those who live in or around Fishponds Road and the other areas affected.

    The fact is the legislation governing prostitution is a mess, and whenever you get someone who is prepared to look at solutions that might work (as David Blunkett was), the weight of conventional wisdom descends to keep the old failed policies in place.

    We need a mature debate about long term solutions, including many which have been proven to work in other countries. Unfortunately rational debate is a rare commodity in the UK’s political culture.

  16. Dona Qixota says:

    “We need a mature debate about long term solutions, including many which have been proven to work in other countries. Unfortunately rational debate is a rare commodity in the UK’s political culture.”

    I agree Steve.

    Seems to me that the obstacles in the way of rational discussion of sex-work are largely similar to the obstacles in the way of of rational discussion of drugs.

    The obtacles are created by authoritarian ideologists; feminists, the religious, and the puritanical.

    These people are the problem. They need to be brought to accept the fact that, for a wide variety of reasons, human beings are always going to want to take drugs and (men particularly) are going to want to pay to obtain more sex.

    Then everybody could move on to finding ways in which these activities can be accommodated with least harm to all.

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