Laws of Prostitution in UK:

Laws on prostitution have been easing over the year in the United Kingdom. However, the law is still quite ambiguous over what constitutes prostitution and the laws surrounding it. Prostitution is not illegal in the United Kingdom. However, many activities that surround prostitution, some of which you might think are fine, are illegal. If you are unaware of the laws, it is easy to become an offender without knowing it.

Many people find it difficult to make sense of the Prostitution laws in the UK, as there are many terminologies involved. We can take a look at a few below.

Age of Clients and Escorts

The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) clearly states that any escort under the age of 18 should be treated as a victim of sexual abuse. Any escort agency or client involved with an escort under the age of 18 can be prosecuted under sections 47 - 51 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, Rape and Sexual Offences Manual. These sections deal with paying for sexual services of a child; causing or inciting child prostitution or pornography; controlling a child prostitute or a child involved in pornography; and arranging or facilitating child prostitution or pornography respectively. Irrespective of whether consent was given, she is classed as being too young to make that decision in the first place. In the eyes of the UK law she has been coerced, exploited and abused through prostitution

Brothel Keeping

So what is a brothel? A brothel can be either a residential or commercial property in which they are used by more than one man or women for the purpose of prostitution. It does not matter whether they work on the same day or not. It's not so much what goes on in the brothel that falls fowl of the law but more to do with the running and control of a brothel. For example two escorts can work from the same property as long as they don't work together as part of a group or organisation. By running a brothel you are in fact, controlling and directly gaining from prostitution. The way the laws are set out is to punish those who try and make a business out of prostituting multiple girls. The UK laws are set out in such a way it makes it completely legal to act independently but not as a group or larger operation.

So how do brothels exist and stay open? Well, in many cities or towns, just as quickly as one brothel is closed another one is setup. It's very hard for the police to keep shutting down brothels and so in many larger cities they learn to live and work with the brothels. The police understand that shutting down every brothel will never happen and so instead they turn to policing those establishments.

Police Officers have often been known to visit brothels regularly in order to keep an eye on the business. They will often talk to the maids and also the girls to make sure they are safe and happy in what they are doing. They will look for signs of under age girls and any drug abuse as well as make sure there are no complaints from the neighbours. If some of these more serious crimes aren't a problem then more often than not they will turn a blind eye to the running of the brothel.

The Streets

Although prostitution is legal, anybody found soliciting another person for prostitution in a public place can be held guilty. Strangely, it is also considered soliciting if you are on a balcony or in a shop window. In such circumstances it is difficult to make out whether a person is soliciting sex or not, but it is illegal regardless.

It is also illegal to loiter around public places such as streets and offering sexual services. “Persistently” loitering around a given place is defined as “being found in the same place twice in three months”. The law here may seem to be a bit absurd, but it is meant to address behavior of soliciting in public places.

Kerb Crawling

Kerb crawling means soliciting a person from a vehicle in a public place such as on the streets for sexual services. This act is considered to be a nuisance for women and people in the neighborhood. Persistent kerb crawling is a clear legal offence. Here too, many acts can be construed as kerb crawling and the law does not have provisions for such cases.

Kerb crawling could have the following repercussions:

  • Penalty of a maximum of £1000
  • Disqualification from driving
  • Injunction
  • Charges of anti-social behavior, which carry their own penalty

Various measures have been taken in order to discourage kerb crawling such as;

  • Gating off of alleyways
  • Construction of barriers
  • Installation of CCTV cameras at public places, in such a manner that they are visible to everybody

Making people aware that they are being watched as they indulge in kerb crawling has proven to be a successful deterrent.


Advertising for sexual services publicly is not illegal. However, it is illegal if you do so near telephone boxes and / or near such a place. Many public places are also included in the list of areas where you cannot advertise prostitution.

The laws for advertising are not particularly stringent. There are many magazines, tabloids and periodicals in the UK, which advertise sexual services openly as this is considered perfectly legal.

Avoiding the law

There are a few things you can do as a sex worker or a client to avoid any legal issues. The best thing you can do is to keep a low profile. Keep your activities quiet, so that you do not disturb the general public around you. This removes a big reason for the police to consider your acts an offence. Before you visit a brothel, check with people around, as to how the police see the place. There are many cases where brothels operate, but people in adjacent homes don’t know about it for years.

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