Leeds sex worker gives her views on city’s ‘legal’ red light area

A sex worker has given her view on the scheme.
A sex worker has given her view on the scheme.

The concerns of residents and businesses in Holbeck have had a significant influence on the way that the ‘managed approach’ has evolved.

But the views of the sex workers, who lives are most directly impacted, are all often conspicuous in their absence.

They were not formally consulted by Safer Leeds last year when the decision was being made about whether to continue with the approach or to make changes.

READ MORE: Sex in the city - Leeds residents on life near ‘legal’ red light zone

The task of giving them a voice has largely fallen on charities such as Basis, who work directly with the women to offer practical support.

Understandably, many are wary of speaking to the media after the national coverage in the wake of Daria Pionko’s murder in December 2015.

But one of the women, who agreed to give a recorded interview with a Basis worker present, said that the current approach was much better than the past focus on enforcement.

“Well it’s a lot better because you’ve got a time to come out and the blokes know when you can come out and do the business,” she said.

“Everyone knows when they should be working, then there’s no issue between yourself and the police. Out here, if you’re out whenever you want, you don’t know where you are from one minute to the next and your [drug] habit is worse as well. Most girls that are out here have got habits.”

READ MORE: What Safer Leeds says about city’s ‘legal’ red light area

She is appreciative of the ready access to support from the likes of Basis and staff from health and drugs services who join the charity for its regular outreach sessions in Holbeck.

“The ladies [from Basis] come out with Durex and sort you out and look after you,” she said. “They’re all brilliant. As soon as they see you, they go to stop and check up.”

Asked whether she though other cities should do the same, she said: “Get on with it. Get it done. Build your trust up and just deal with it and get it done because it’s a lot easier.

“At least then you can keep your eye on them, so if a girl does go missing or something happens, you know from what time and things like that.”

Basis outreach worker Emily Turner said they regularly get visits from organisations who want to see firsthand how the managed approach works here in Leeds.

“It’s important to do it properly and have it as a real thing people know about,” she said. “We need to be open and honest.”

She too hopes other areas will be bold enough to follow the example of Safer Leeds, and added: “It’s a very risky thing that Safer Leeds have done. I’m proud of them and think actually they need to be applauded.”

READ MORE: Sex in the city: Is Leeds ‘managed approach’ an innovation?