By Ben Russell
A clampdown on kerbcrawlers and men who pay for sex with trafficked women has been launched by Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary.
She won a standing ovation at the Labour Party conference after announcing that ministers may create a new offence against people who pay prostitutes who have been forced into the sex trade.
Ms Smith pledged to give police powers to close brothels for three months. At present they can only shut them if there is evidence of drug abuse or anti-social behaviour. She also signalled that ministers would tighten regulations for lap-dancing clubs amid fears that local authorities have too little power to restrict where they open and how they operate.
The Home Office is also planning action to allow kerbcrawlers to be prosecuted for a first offence.
Ms Smith said: “The Government has a responsibility to protect those who have been groomed or trafficked into prostitution … at another’s will or controlled for another’s gain. The 2003 Sexual Offences Act outlawed trafficking women into the sex trade and made it a crime to act as a pimp.
Kerb crawling and persistent soliciting are criminal offences but it is not illegal in England and Wales to pay for sex. The planned rules would make such an act illegal with a victim of trafficking.