Kerb-crawl laws fail to put brakes on Links offences

The crack down has been branded 'a waste of time'
The crack down has been branded 'a waste of time'
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A LAW to crack down on kerb-crawlers has been branded a waste of time amid claims it has become “impossible” to enforce.

Campaigners say the amount of evidence required to secure a conviction means that the legislation is “ineffective” and has led to prostitutes and their customers returning to the Leith Links area on a nightly basis.

Now the Leith Links Residents Association is set to draw up a petition calling for the current legislation to be changed.

Figures show that a total of 42 men were charged under kerb-crawling laws in Edinburgh in 2010, compared with 23 in 2008 but there is no information on how many were successfully convicted.

A spokesman for the Leith Links Residents Association, which met with police and prosecutors this week to discuss the issue, said: “It was clear from what the procurator fiscal’s office said that the legislation is seriously flawed. The evidence needs to be of such a high standard that it’s difficult for anyone to be charged. The transaction between the kerb-crawler and the girl either needs to be overheard by police or the girl has to shop the kerb-crawler, which makes it almost impossible.

“It is not a deterrent if no one can be successfully prosecuted.”

Malcolm Chisholm, Edinburgh North and Leith MSP, was at the meeting and is backing the residents’ campaign. He said: “We have to explore the options for change. We could ask for a general revisiting of the law, but it may be better to come up with specific proposals.

“It would seem to me that if a car is circling repeatedly and the driver stops to talk to the women, and that is witnessed by two people, then that is enough evidence.

“The law seems to have been a missed opportunity.”

A police spokesman said: “The force takes a pragmatic approach to the policing of street prostitution.

“However, kerb crawling remains a criminal offence and anyone found to be responsible for this type of crime will be robustly dealt with.”

A Crown Office spokeswoman said: “We will continue to take action against individuals who solicit the services of a prostitute, and work closely with the police to prosecute these offenders where there is sufficient evidence.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “More than 200 people have been convicted under the legislation since it came into force in 2007 and we back our police and courts to continue bringing those who create the demand for street prostitution to justice.”