Former Managed Approach mastermind welcomes scrapping the scheme

One of the original architects of the Leeds Managed Approach has welcomed the council’s decision to scrap the scheme, but has warned the hard work starts now.
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It follows an announcement from Leeds City Council that is was planning to scrap the scheme, which allows sex workers to operate in non-residential parts of Holbeck without fear of arrest.

Mark Dobson now an independent councillor, originally introduced the pilot for the Managed Approach back in 2014 when he was the authority’s executive member for Safer Leeds, but has since become one of its most vocal critics.

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Speaking after the council’s announcement, he called for a model of “intense policing” to help stamp out kerb-crawlers in the area.

Coun Mark Dobson has welcomed the scrapping of the zone.Coun Mark Dobson has welcomed the scrapping of the zone.
Coun Mark Dobson has welcomed the scrapping of the zone.

He said: “I am happy, in that the administration has listened to every possible external voice of reason, but also it is incumbent on the administration to find a model that protects women properly and makes a lasting difference, rather than leaving vulnerable women in a vulnerable situation, which is what the managed zone did.

“In terms of the managed zone ending, that is a positive, but there is still quite a lot of work to be done on that.”

He added the council could have much to learn from the so-called zero tolerance approach taken in Ipswich a number of years ago, following a number of murders of sex workers there.

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“Why can’t Leeds accept that it made a mistake?” he added. “There are workable solutions out there.

“It’s time that the administration look again up and down the country at models that have worked, and say Leeds is prepared to take on other people’s ideas when they have had success.”

Police and council officers have claimed the Managed Approach was effective in reducing the number of sex workers operating in the area and that previous enforcement-led measures hadn’t worked.

So what makes Coun Dobson believe they would work now?

“I don’t think just taking on an enforcement-led approach would work,” he added. “It wasn’t enforced properly, and it led to an outcry from the public and from ward members at the time who wanted an alternative solution.

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“That is why the zone was initially trialled. If you are going to do this, it has to be done right, and with dedicated resources – neither the council nor the police can claim lack of resource, when even in the budget they were still ring fencing hundreds of thousands of pounds for the managed zone.

“The council should now ensure the women can be kept safe from harm, and wherever possible extracting them from that industry.

“The money wasted on the managed zone can be diverted into that.”

He spoke of the Ipswich model, introduced by former Suffolk Police Detective Superintendent Alan Caton, which was designed to eradicate on-street sex work in the town, adding: “This was done by a high level of intense policing around enforcement to effectively drive the perpetrators off the streets.

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“That model worked. You could argue Ipswich is a smaller place than Leeds. But it worked because it had the right level of resources and the backing of the council.

“Don’t tell me there is no money, because money has been thrown down the drain for five years.

“It’s time for urgent action. Solutions are out there.”