PRESS RELEASE: Independent Review into controversial Holbeck red-light zone in Leeds failed to consider equality implications & made claims NOT backed up by data


After pressure from local residents, last year Leeds City Council (LCC) commissioned a so-called ‘Independent Review’ (IR) into the operation of the decriminalised red-light zone in Holbeck, Leeds – officially known as the ‘Managed Approach’ (MA). The review was undertaken by the Applied Criminology and Policing Centre, at the University of Huddersfield and their final report was released on Friday, 10 July 2020.

The report claims that the Managed Approach is a significant success. However, the Nordic Model Now! (NMN) campaign group has identified numerous flaws in the report.

Local resident, ‘Jenny’, says:

“I’m gutted at the review. It’s not representative of feeling in the community at all. I quite often walk through Holbeck on my way to town, and men always leer at me and wolf whistle – even though I don’t go down the designated streets.

“Three times in the last ten days alone, a man has pulled over beside me and propositioned me. And I’m in my 40s! I absolutely hate it. But imagine how terrifying it is for teenage girls. Why did the researchers not look into this impact properly?”

1. The review failed to comply with the legal obligations of public bodies to consider the equality impact of their policies and did not properly investigate how the scheme affects local women and children, including the sustained and aggressive kerb crawling. The only recommendation for resolving any such problems was the hosting of a ‘We love and respect Holbeck’ PR event – which shows utter contempt for the local residents.

2. The review recommends that the Holbeck community shares responsibility for the scheme. However, it was imposed by Leeds City Council on the community without its consent, and residents have been vocally campaigning against it for years. Local resident, Jenny’s response to this was: “They want us to take shared responsibility for organised crime!” She said that most of the women have pimps – you can see them lurking nearby. And there are many Romanian women who are clearly human trafficking victims – and whose pimps/traffickers are utterly ruthless. “How dare the reviewers suggest we share responsibility for this? How dare they?”

3. The report makes a number of false claims. For example, the following claims are NOT backed up by the data presented in the report:

  • “The health and safety of on-street sex workers has been greatly improved by the MA.” (page 53)
  • “Evidence indicates that the MA has reduced the prevalence of on-street sex workers in Leeds.” (Page 42)
  • “Evidence suggests that the impact of on-street sex working on residents has reduced.” (Page 42)
  • “A systematic review of the research literature and conducting of a survey of police forces in England and Wales, did not identify any more effective interventions or ways of reducing the problems associated with on-street sex work within the parameters of existing UK law.” (Page 11)

For NMN’s detailed response, see: NMN response to the ‘Independent Review’ of the Holbeck red-light zone in Leeds.

Note to editors

Nordic Model Now! is a grassroots group campaigning for the abolition of prostitution and related practices and for the Nordic Model approach to prostitution. This decriminalises those who are prostituted, provides services to help them exit, imposes tough penalties on pimps and profiteers, and makes buying sex a criminal offence in order to reduce the demand that drives sex trafficking.

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