Safe for whom? As Daria’s killer faces life sentence, Leeds ‘managed red light area’ comes under review

The red light area in Leeds. Picture: Tony Johnson
The red light area in Leeds. Picture: Tony Johnson

LEEDS’ managed red light area - the only one in Britain - is under review, it was confirmed today, following the murder conviction of a lorry driver’s mate for the killing of sex worker Daria Pionko.

The area in Holbeck, Leeds, was designated a “managed area” in October 2014, when a 12-month pilot scheme was launched to focus on issues created by the presence of sex workers.

Lewis Pierre has been found guilty of murdering Daria Pionko.

Lewis Pierre has been found guilty of murdering Daria Pionko.

The project hit the headlines the following year when it was made permanent.

Lewis Pierre, 24, was found guilty at Leeds Crown Court of the murder and robbery of 21-year-old Polish national Ms Pionko in the managed area in December 2014.

He will be sentenced today and faces a life sentence.

Following the verdict, a Safer Leeds spokesman said: “A further public consultation is currently being undertaken with local residents, businesses and stakeholders as part of a review regarding the managed approach.

Victim Daria Pionko.

Victim Daria Pionko.

“This will inform a report with recommendations regarding the managed approach, which will be brought to a meeting of the Safer Leeds Executive later this summer.”

The area, of light industrial premises, offices, a couple of large shops and car showrooms, had been identified by council workers and police as having significant issues related to outdoor sex workers.

The scheme, set up by the Leeds Strategic Prostitution Working Group, meant offences such as loitering, soliciting or kerb crawling would not be enforced.

The safety of sex workers and community harmony were also driving principles behind the project.

A report by the University of Leeds in September 2015 found that, since the start of the pilot scheme, relationships between sex workers and the police had improved, there was an increase in sex workers reporting crimes and there had been a number of arrests and prosecutions of people who had committed serious offences against sex workers.

But it also made a number of recommendations and reported that “future improvements should focus on the safety of sex workers”.

A Leeds City Council meeting in October 2015 reported that the creation of a police sex worker liaison officer post had helped encourage sex workers to report offences and had resulted in Leeds’ first conviction for the rape of a sex worker.

A further meeting, after Ms Pionko’s death, revealed that an action plan had been drawn up to act on recommendations given in reports.

A police image of the man they want to trace in connection to a Horsforth burglary.

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