YourChoice
Adult DVDs
Satisfaction Guaranteed
Your Choice Viewers' Wives
YourChoice

 Parliament Watch

 2001

 Menu  UK Film Cuts  
 Home  World  Nutters  
 Index  Media Liberty  
 Links  Info   Cutting Edge  
 Email  US   Shopping  


1st May

House of Commons

Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001: Prostitute's Cards In Phone Boxes

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 92:

After Clause 44, insert the following new clause--

PLACING OF ADVERTISEMENT RELATING TO PROSTITUTION

(1) A person commits an offence if--

(a) he places on, or in the immediate vicinity of, a public telephone an advertisement relating to prostitution, and
(b) he does so with the intention that the advertisement should come to the attention of any other person or persons.

(2) For the purposes of this section, an advertisement is an advertisement relating to prostitution if it--

(a) is for the services of a prostitute, whether male or female; or
(b) indicates that premises are premises at which such services are offered.

(3) In any proceedings for an offence under this section, any advertisement which a reasonable person would consider to be an advertisement relating to prostitution shall be presumed to be such an advertisement unless it is shown not to be.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both.

(5) In this section--
"public telephone" means--

(a) any telephone which is located in a public place and made available for use by the public, or a section of the public, and
(b) where such a telephone is located in or on, or attached to, a kiosk, booth, acoustic hood, shelter or other structure, that structure; and
"public place" means any place to which the public have or are permitted to have access, whether on payment or otherwise, other than--

(a) any place to which children under the age of 16 years are not permitted to have access, whether by law or otherwise, and
(b) any premises which are wholly or mainly used for residential purposes.

(6) In section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (c. 60) (arrest without warrant for arrestable offences), in subsection (2) (offences which are arrestable offences), after paragraph (c) insert--
"(ca) an offence under section (Placing of advertisement relating to prostitution) of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001;

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 92 would make the placing of prostitutes cards in telephone boxes--a practice commonly known as "carding"--a criminal offence. This is a matter which has long been of concern to residents, local authorities and telephone companies.

The Government issued a consultation paper on the issue as long ago as May 1999. It stated:

Prostitute cards in telephone boxes are undesirable and a nuisance to local communities. The cards can be offensive, create a bad impression with foreign visitors and can be an inappropriate influence on young people.

I do wish that we would stop using the word "inappropriate" when really the word is "wrong". This is a wrong influence on young people.

They hide important public service information and can cause serious litter problems. Those who place cards in boxes can be threatening towards the public and local authority cleaning teams. Furthermore, prostitutes' cards represent a cost to phone operators in terms of negative image and lost revenue and require local authorities to incur costs through cleaning operations.

The Government state that the problem is at its worst in central London and in the Brighton and Hove area. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, will be able to inform Members of the Committee of the extent of the problem in Brighton.

I understand from British Telecom that it spends more than 250,000 per annum dealing with this problem which affects more than 1,000 boxes in central London. Cards must be removed from those boxes six days a week and more than 13 million are collected each year. In Brighton and Hove, 250 telephone boxes are affected by more than 1 million cards a year.

The number of cards has grown and the images and the description of the services offered have become even more explicit. The images used on the cards are sordid and people do not want to be confronted by such cards when they simply want to make a telephone call. In central London in particular the cards give foreign visitors a bad impression of this country. The cards are also an environmental nuisance, creating litter when they become detached from the telephone boxes and the so-called carders can become violent towards those who are trying to remove the cards.

As the Government have recognised, the existing state of the law is not adequate to deal with the problem. In their May 1999 consultation paper, they proposed creating a new criminal offence. In December last year, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, gave further information to your Lordships' House about the conclusions of the Government's consultation and promised to legislate when parliamentary time allowed. The amendments have been drawn to reflect exactly the position taken by the Government in the light of the responses to their consultation document, a position outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, in December last year. I am delighted to see that the Minister has added his name to them.

Amendment No. 93 would allow the Secretary of State, with the approval of your Lordships' House and another place, to extend the scope of the offence to structures other than telephone boxes. I understand that that is necessary because it may be that the new offence created by Amendment No. 92 will displace the activities of the carders to bus shelters, lamp-posts or other structures in public places.

Finally, I invite the Minister to comment on the progress that is being made with Oftel and the telephone companies to ensure that the numbers advertised on the cards are being disconnected, a matter to which he referred in his statement in December last year. I beg to move.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: I rise briefly to support the amendment and express satisfaction that it is a cross-party initiative. As the noble Baroness said, the way in which cards are littering telephone boxes is a major public nuisance and an affront to many people. It takes place mainly in London, and in Brighton and Hove, but increasingly in other towns and cities.

Many people find them offensive and many foreign visitors find them mystifying. Indeed, they come to the view that perhaps the telephone boxes are some form of advertising medium for prostitutes. I also read that children, particularly in primary school, collect the cards and exchange them rather like they do Pokemon cards. So it is a huge problem and this is undoubtedly a way in which it can be addressed.

I have two questions which I hope my noble friend will be able to answer. First, the amendment refers to prostitution services. Will it also cover what one might call "related services", or euphemisms for prostitution such as "massage parlours"? Will it still be legal if such cards appear in telephone boxes or other public places?

Secondly, what has been the response to the question posed on page 13 of the consultation paper produced in May 1999; namely, whether effective legislation against advertising in telephone boxes would result in an increase in street prostitution? That would be a most undesirable consequence of the implementation of this amendment. I am sure my noble friend agrees that it would also be dangerous for the women who take part in prostitution. Do the Government have any alternative ideas to deal with prostitution on the streets if this amendment leads to an increase? For example, have they thought of any other legal ways in which prostitutes can safely advertise their services without causing public offence?

Lord Dholakia: We on this side of the Committee support the amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, is quite right. The amendment is absolutely vital. This is very much an ugly feature of life in this country, particularly when decent people simply want to make telephone calls and, when they enter telephone booths, see the cards that are placed there. Children and women in particular find the cards fairly offensive. This matter has all-party support and I hope that it will become part of the legislation of this country.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am delighted that we have reached this set of amendments. Prostitutes' cards in telephone boxes is a matter which has given rise to concern on all sides of the House. When I was leader of Brighton and Hove council somewhat ironically I found myself entirely at one with the changing leaderships of the City of Westminster council, whatever form they took. We jointly campaigned to put into legislative effect powers such as these to outlaw and combat effectively the distasteful business of carding. Strangely, our two boroughs were at one in that joint concern. We, as local authorities, shared what we regarded as good practice in using planning legislation and other ruses to try to tackle the problem. It may be that we were ineffective in that, but at least we tried to tackle it. We now have a proposal which effectively is a joint "handout" amendment, and I am pleased that we have reached the point of discussing it.

This is a particular problem in Westminster and Brighton and Hove. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, for reminding the Committee of the cost to the telephone companies and the environment and the impact on children, young people and visitors of these distasteful cards and their volume. I did not spend my days in Brighton counting these cards. However, if one needs to use a telephone box in the city centre one can hardly avoid seeing the cards. The fact is that they put people off using the telephones.

My noble friend Lord Faulkner asked whether cards which offered prostitutes' services by way of massage parlours and so on would be caught by this measure. According to the term that is to be adopted, prostitution really means any sexual services for reward. The amendment will cover any card in respect of which a reasonable person reasonably regards the activity as a form of prostitution or sexual service. Therefore, it should cover massage parlours in the terms in which my noble friend Lord Faulkner indicates.

My noble friend also asked a question relating to page 13 of the report of May 1999; namely, whether we believe that this might encourage more street prostitution. Obviously, one cannot predict these matters; they are not a precise science. There is no evidence to suggest that that will be the case. I believe it is likely that those who seek to avail punters of prostitutes' services will advertise in other perhaps more acceptable ways. I do not want to speculate on what they might be. But we as Government are not in the business of encouraging prostitution. Far from it. What we have tried to do is to support those services that exist in many of our urban areas to try and help people in the sex industry get out of the world of prostitution and lead a more constructive and gainful existence.

We have set up prostitution projects to see what works in tackling prostitution. Through these projects we are looking to help prostitutes formulate exit strategies away from that business. Many of these concerns and considerations have been raised this week with the sad and tragic news of the death of Monica Coghlan, who was clearly caught up in that business. That has highlighted again the distasteful side of it. We need to do more; and the Government are strongly committed in that direction. I hope that has answered the points of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner.

The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, raised an important point relating to Oftel. There have been many discussions. The Councils have had discussions with OFTEL. I can remember a long time ago scripting letters to OFTEL asking it to take responsibility in this field. The amendment is just one part of tackling the larger problem. There are other measures that can complement legislation.

My understanding is that OFTEL has had discussions with the telecommunications industry about a call-barring scheme. Some progress has been made in that area. I am told that it is not a simple business. It needs to be developed. I hope that it can be. There will be further consultation with the industry following legislation in this area because schemes such as call-barring may play an important part in it. But it is not easy. It touches on the human rights of the individual who really should have access to telecommunications systems. So it is not a simple issue, but we need to make more progress.

I believe that these measures are right. The all-party support that exists for them is a measure of the strength of opinion in these matters. They will help prevent a nuisance in many of our city centres. I doubt whether the nuisance will long be confined to Westminster and Brighton and Hove. I am told by my colleagues in another place that their town and city centres are increasingly being afflicted by the arrival of cards peddling this business and trade. After all, it is the oldest trade known to man.

I am grateful to the Opposition for tabling the amendment. I am happy to put my name to it. I am confident that the words are right. I am delighted that we have had all-party support for these amendments.

Baroness Buscombe: I should like to pick up on a couple of points made by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester. I agree with the Minister with respect to the terminology used in the amendments. On these Benches, it is our hope that other kinds of activities which are not blatantly prostitution, as it were, on the face of these cards will be caught under subsection (3). That states:

    "In any proceedings for an offence under this section, any advertisement which a reasonable person would consider to be an advertisement relating to prostitution".

We all have a good idea of the kinds of activities--be it saunas, massage or whatever--that would pertain to that and therefore be caught. At the risk of putting a dampener on the proceedings, I hear what the noble Lord says with regard to this proposal perhaps meaning a possibility of deflecting the problem from the phone box and on to the street, but, personally, I doubt that very much. What I fear--this is a matter that we shall all have to think about and indeed are already in terms of prostitution and pornography--is the use of the Internet for reaching out to potential clients. That is a problem, particularly with regard to young people. I need not expand on that point.

I do not think that we have closed off the problem. We have possibly moved it to some extent. But I think that we have been right. We should not be put off or be defeatist on this issue. We should not think that it is better to let the problem continue because we might produce another problem somewhere else. This is the right step to take. I raised the issue at Second Reading. I feel quite passionately about it. I am glad that the Government have added their support to our amendment. I thank the Minister for his response.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 93:

    After Clause 44, insert the following new clause--

"Application of section (Placing of advertisement relating to prostitution) by order to public structures
(1) The Secretary of State may, by order, provide for section (Placing of advertisement relating to prostitution) to apply in relation to any public structure of a description specified in the order as it applies in relation to a public telephone.
(2) In this section--
"public structure" means any structure that--
(a) is provided as an amenity for the use of the public or a section of the public, and
(b) is located in a public place; and
"public place" and "public telephone" have the same meaning as in section (Placing of advertisment relating to prostitution).
(3) At any time when an order under this section has effect, the reference in section 24(2) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (c. 60) to an offence under section (Placing an advertisement relating to prostitution) of this Act shall be construed as including an offence under that section by virtue of the order.
(4) The power to make an order under this section is exercisable by statutory instrument.
(5) No order may be made under this section unless a draft of the order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

 

15th January

House of Lords

  Indecent and Obscene Material on the Internet

Lord Hylton Asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether offering or down-loading pornography on the Internet is a criminal offence throughout the United Kingdom; if so how many persons have been (a) charged, and (b) convicted in each jurisdiction in each of the most recent three years; and whose responsibility is it to check whether pornography is offered on the internet.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The term "pornography" is not recognised in legislation, which in England and Wales covers indecent material (particularly indecent photographs or computer generated images of children) and obscene material, There are separate common law and statutory offences in Northern Ireland.

In England and Wales, obscenity legislation, such as the Obscene Publications Act 1959 and the Protection of Children Act 1978, applies equally to material placed on the Internet as to material published and distributed in other media; what is illegal off-line is illegal on-line.

Under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 it is an offence to publish an "obscene article", as defined in the Act. Under Section 2 of the Act a person who publishes (distributes, circulates, sells, lets on hire, gives or lends it, or who offers it for sale or for letting on hire) an obscene article, or transmits obscene data electronically may be guilty of an offence.

Under the Protection of Children Act 1976, there is an absolute prohibition of the production, circulation and possession with a view to distribution of any indecent photograph of a child under 16. The simple possession of an indecent photograph of a child is also an offence under Section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. Section 84 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 updated these controls to include indecent computer-generated photographs of children, and they have been successfully applied to child pornography transmitted over the Internet.

The Government support the work of the Internet Watch Foundation which was set up in 1996 by Internet service providers to enable members of the public, via a hotline, to report potentially illegal material in a newsgroup or website. If the material is considered illegal, the foundation passes details to the United Kingdom police to initiate action against the originators and asks British Internet service providers (ISPs) to close down links to the site. If the originators are abroad, the foundation passes the report to the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) which liaises with the enforcement agencies of the countries concerned.

The way in which records are held for those initially charged by the police and those convicted by the courts in England and Wales differs. Offences involving "obscene publications, etc and protected sexual material" became notifiable offences from 1 April 1998. The number of offences recorded in England and Wales for year ending 31 March 1999 was 603 and for year ending 31 March 2000 was 643.

The numbers of convictions for offences under the Obscene Publications Act 1959, Protection of Children Act 1978 and Section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 for each of the last three years are contained in the table.

 
 
Found Guilty Cautioned
Code
Offence description
1997 1998 1999 1997 1998 1999
86/01
Obscene Publications Act 1959
 
Sec(2)(1) as amended by Obscene Publications Act 1964 Sec 1(1)--Prohibition of publication of obscene matter
186 176 96 54 44 41
86/02
Protection of Children Act 1978 S.I. as amended by Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 Sec. 84-Take, permit to be taken or to make distribute or publish indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children
103 82 139 14 26 31
181/06
Criminal Justice Act 1988 Sec.160 as amended by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, Secs. 84(4) and 86(1)--Possession of an indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph
81 105 99 17 19 34