13-year-old 'approached by man asking for sex' in Leeds Holbeck red light zone

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A Leeds mum has spoken out after her 13-year-old daughter was approached by a man in Holbeck's red light zone and asked if she was 'working'.

The Holbeck area contains the Leeds 'managed zone', an effective legal red light district where police monitor the safety of the sex workers.

Campaigners on one of the recent protests in the Holbeck area

Campaigners on one of the recent protests in the Holbeck area

Pressure group Save Our Eyes Holbeck has revealed what the group says is account of a 13-year-old's experience walking through Holbeck with her mum in an incident which happened on October 22.

The group posted the account on its website after being approached by the parent, says a spokesman for Save Our Eyes. Katie's name has been changed to protect her anonymity.

The post said: "Hello! My name is Katie and I’m 13 years old. Me and my mum are so angry about what’s happening in Holbeck that we’ve agreed our story can be published.

"Last Saturday morning, we were at the bus stop on Domestic Street. It’s a residential area away from the 'managed approach.'

"There’s a lot of prostitutes and dirty men who are looking for the prostitutes around there in the streets all the time.

"A man came up to us and said 'Are you working?'. My mum was confused and asked what he meant.

He replied 'Not you! I mean her. Is she working?' and pointed at me.

"My mum realised what he meant. She shouted at him 'She’s only 13, she’s a child!' but he wasn’t even bothered. He carried on, 'It’s acceptable in Holbeck to ask.'

"My mum was furious and I can’t even tell you what she shouted at him next.

"As teenagers me and my friends often have encounters with prostitutes and dirty men while we are walking to and from school.

"Sometimes we see them having sex or shooting up drugs in the streets.

"Sometimes residents get into arguments with prostitutes in the street, that can be quite frightening.

"The walk to school became an experience to avoid.

"It should only take me 15 min to walk there, but I can’t go the direct route as there are too many prostitutes and dirty men hanging about near the bridge.

"So I have to walk to school the long way which takes me 25 minutes. I set off for school at 7.15am."

Katie’s mum, 'Helen', is still outraged by what has happened.

She said: “I’ve lived in Holbeck since I was 15. It used to be a lovely place, now we can’t go into the streets without being stopped by perverts looking for sex.

"I’ve been stopped myself several times but Saturday was the first time I’d seen a man go after my daughter.

"There have been times when young children pick up the used condoms left on the pavement. They think they are balloons because many of them are pretty colours.

"I’ve complained to the Police several times in the past about sex acts I have witnessed or times I have been intimidated.

"The “managed approach” has made the punters and prostitutes much bolder than they were before.

"Their attitudes towards the local residents can be shocking. As Katie described, the man who wanted to buy her on Saturday argued with me.

"He felt he had a right to ask any woman in the area for sex.

"He was not even in the zone. The sex industry are trying to claim the whole of Holbeck, not just the small area they have been allocated for the zone.

"Now the winter is coming, I’ll go out to meet Katie after school to walk her home. It’s not safe for women to walk the streets after dark here."

In July, Safer Leeds dispelled reports in a national newspaper which suggested a “crisis meeting” was being held about the future of a controversial scheme.

It said it regularly meets with a wide range of partners and stakeholders – including members of the Holbeck Reference Group set up to assess the impact of the Managed Approach – as part of its ongoing commitment.