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After section 2

Prostitution (Public Places) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:06 pm on 28th February 2007.

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Photo of George Reid George Reid None 3:06 pm, 28th February 2007

Group 2 is on the use of drug treatment and testing orders. Amendment 4 is in the name of Tommy Sheridan.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SG

First, I thank the clerks of the Local Government and Transport Committee for drafting amendment 4 at relatively short notice. I had hoped that the Executive parties would have lodged an amendment like this at stage 2 to take cognisance of the very persuasive evidence that the committee heard about the interconnectedness of drug abuse and addiction and prostitution. Ruth Morgan Thomas, the manager of SCOT-PEP in Edinburgh, made the point that there are

"major implications for women who are drug dependent—and we know that more than 95 per cent of women who are involved in street prostitution are drug dependent".

Anne Fallon of the Routes Out partnership in Glasgow said:

"The fundamental point is that women prostitute themselves in order to survive. For example, 90-odd per cent of the women involved in street prostitution in Glasgow do it to fund not only their own drug habit but the drug habits of their partners or other people."

During his oral evidence, Alan Beatson of Leith Links residents association said:

"We do not take a moral stance on this at all—far from it. We want to support the women because they are members of the community and we have obligations to them. It is in everyone's interests to sort out the problem, but we think that it ought to be done with proper policies to help people to get out of prostitution, particularly through drug support ... Drugs are the central issue here. We think that a lot of resources ought to be put in to helping the women to get out of drugs."

When Senga Bethune, also of Leith Links residents association, was asked whether antisocial behaviour orders could deal effectively with street prostitution, she said:

"I do not think that such orders are a way of tackling the issue. I listened to what the experts said earlier and I think that it is about time that the whole business of street prostitution was treated as a drug problem. ... Basically, women sell themselves to pay for either their drugs or someone else's drugs."—[Official Report, Local Government and Transport Committee, 24 October 2006; c 4129-53.]

Ann Hamilton, who is a principal policy officer for Glasgow City Council, said:

"One of the reasons for the establishment of management zones and tolerance zones was to provide services to the women. We all struggle with that because they are probably the most vulnerable of any group. They have the highest drug use of any group, certainly in Glasgow."—[Official Report, Local Government and Transport Committee, 31 October 2006; c 4182-83.]

When George Lyon gave evidence to the committee on behalf of the Executive, he told us:

"The issue is complex and very difficult. It involves very unfortunate females who are driven into prostitution through a need to feed their drug habits or raise money for partners or other individuals who have control over them because they are vulnerable adults. ... We need to provide proper support to give those people an opportunity to find a way out of that life. I hope that that will be the committee's overriding concern."—[Official Report, Local Government and Transport Committee, 28 November 2006; c 4359.]

That is the overriding concern of amendment 4, which seeks to ensure that more resources will be committed to drug treatment, testing and rehabilitation. The committee was told frankly that not enough resources are dedicated to tackling the drug problem, which is integrally linked with street prostitution. Amendment 4 seeks to force extra resources into tackling street prostitution such that, for anyone who is convicted of street prostitution, drug treatment and rehabilitation and counselling must be made available. Sadly, with the way things are just now, far too many of those who are convicted of street prostitution have no access to such essential support, which is why I recommend that members support amendment 4.

I move amendment 4.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

Four members have asked to speak. If I am to allow all of them to speak, they will need to keep their speeches to two minutes.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I seek clarification on whether drug treatment and testing orders can be handed down from a district court as well as a sheriff court. Under the current legislation on soliciting and loitering with intent, prostitutes can end up before a district court. If Parliament were to support amendment 4, would not that require a further change in the law? I think that only sheriff courts can hand out that sort of remedy. Perhaps Tommy Sheridan can respond to that question.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

Mr Sheridan will have a chance to respond at the end of the debate.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

From all the evidence that was presented to us in the committee, there is no doubt that drug abuse and drug addiction are among the major drivers of street prostitution, as Tommy Sheridan said. If we are to assist women out of prostitution, that process will inevitably involve dealing with the drug habit that leads them to prostitute themselves in the first instance. Accordingly, I can see the rationale behind and some merit in amendment 4, by which Tommy Sheridan seeks to require the courts to make drug treatment and testing orders in respect of persons who are convicted of prostitution.

It is worth noting in this context, however, that the extension of drug treatment and testing orders would need to be accompanied by a significant increase in drug rehabilitation facilities, without which there will be no routes out of addiction for prostitutes or anyone else whose criminal behaviour is driven by drugs. That is one reason why my party is committed to a significant investment in drug rehabilitation facilities throughout Scotland. I very much welcome the leadership that Annabel Goldie has shown in Parliament on that issue.

That said, it is fair to say that amendment 4 has come to us out of the blue today. The committee heard plenty of evidence about the link between prostitution and drugs at stage 1, as Tommy Sheridan mentioned, but his specific proposal about drug treatment and testing orders was not the subject of the evidence that we took or of detailed discussion.

Amendment 4 is well intentioned, but it would be wrong to incorporate the provisions into the bill at this late stage in our deliberations and without fuller analysis. The subject is well worthy of consideration, but that should be done as part of a wider strategy for assisting women out of prostitution. I trust that that will be taken on board by the Executive. For the reasons that I have given, the Conservatives will not support amendment 4.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 3:15 pm, 28th February 2007

It is relatively easy to agree with Tommy Sheridan's analysis and with the information that he has sought out and brought to the debate. Nonetheless, and for a number of reasons, I disagree with his conclusions.

I agree that the huge majority of prostitutes are in prostitution because of their drug habit or, as Tommy Sheridan said, the drug habit of someone else. First, amendment 4 does not address that "someone else". Secondly, the fact is that, overwhelmingly, addicts want to get clean—very few of them want to get on to methadone programmes or to reduce the harm. Thirdly, it is clear that no additional resources will be created under the provisions in the amendment. When I say "resources", I do not simply mean money. I am referring also to trained councillors and nurses—we know that such trained people do not appear overnight.

The effect of agreeing to amendment 4 would be to transfer resources from people who go to their doctor or a clinic and say, "I want to get clean" to people who would come to such treatment through the criminal justice system. One thing we know about the people inside the system who are trying to get clean is that they have a lower success rate. If Scotland has a constant pool of resources and we put more people from the criminal justice system into treatment, we will reduce the number of people who will get clean of drugs.

I say to Tommy Sheridan that I have sympathy for the idea, but before the SNP would support amendment 4, a much more fundamental look at the issue would need to be taken.

Photo of Frances Curran Frances Curran SSP

I speak to oppose amendment 4. We know, because the figures and research are well documented, that the vast majority of women who are involved in street prostitution abuse drugs and/or alcohol. Section 43 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 criminalises soliciting and the effect of amendment 4 would be to encourage mandatory drug treatment and testing orders for women who are involved in prostitution and who are convicted under section 43. The effect of introducing mandatory drug rehab orders would criminalise more women.

Many women's groups are absolutely opposed to amendment 4. They oppose it because breach of a drug rehab and testing order would carry a heavier penalty than the original offence under section 43 of the 1982 act. No one is arguing that the women who are involved in street prostitution do not need access to services, including drug rehabilitation and many other services, but such services must be accessible voluntarily.

Yet again, in these stage 3 amendments, we are focusing on the behaviour of the women who are involved in prostitution. Tommy Sheridan said that the central problem is drugs. I say to him that the central problem is men. It is men who use the women who, in turn, are forced to take drugs and alcohol to blot out what they are involved in.

I am unclear about the thinking behind amendment 4. If it is that women should have mandatory drug treatment and testing orders in order to encourage them to come off drugs as a route out of prostitution, that view is very naive. Of course, a by-product of getting street prostitutes and other women who are involved in prostitution clean would be that men would be protected from infection with any one of a variety of diseases that they might expect. If Tommy Sheridan is serious about harm-reduction measures, he should be putting the spotlight on the men who use prostitutes, not on the lives and behaviour of the women who are involved in prostitution.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Before I call the minister, I intend to exercise my power under rule 9.8.4A(a) to extend the time limit for the debate to allow the minister to speak and Mr Sheridan to wind up. The extra time will need to be gained from the debate on the bill. I give the minister a tight three minutes.

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

Amendment 4 would, in effect, require courts to issue drug treatment and testing orders to sellers who were convicted of an offence under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, as long as certain conditions were met. The conditions are that the court is satisfied, based on a local authority report, that the offender

"is dependent on, or has a propensity to misuse, drugs" and is likely to be susceptible to treatment and is a suitable person to be subject to such an order.

I am afraid that the Executive cannot support amendment 4 for two reasons. First, the amendment would interfere unduly with the independence of the courts to determine what sentence is appropriate in each case by requiring that they issue DTTOs. Secondly, a DTTO is a high-tariff penalty that is intended as an alternative to a custodial sentence and is therefore not appropriate for a section 46 offence. In addition, breach of a DTTO is a significant offence in itself and, as Frances Curran pointed out, can result in imprisonment. Members will agree that that would achieve little in relation to such offenders and it would not be appropriate.

I accept that in Mr Sheridan's motivation in lodging amendment 4 is to try to ensure that people who are trapped in prostitution receive the necessary support to address their underlying problems and, ultimately, to help them leave prostitution. A number of sentencing options are already available to the courts to facilitate that—all courts have the power to impose probation with a condition of drug treatment, for example. Courts may also defer sentence to allow work to be done on substance-misusing problems. Where appropriate, procurators fiscal may divert offenders away from the courts entirely.

A scheme has run in Edinburgh for some time that can divert from prosecution people who are charged with section 46 offences and instead give them an opportunity to address the underlying reasons for their involvement in street prostitution, whether the reasons are related to drugs or other problems. It is important that women in prostitution be given access at any time to support and assistance to help them to leave, not only when they have been charged with or convicted of an offence. That is why the work of the Routes Out partnership in Glasgow, for example, is so important.

The Executive recognises that more needs to be done to support such vulnerable individuals. For that reason, we will make available an additional £1 million to prevent involvement in prostitution, to reduce demand, to reduce harm to those involved and to help individuals to find a route out of prostitution. That is the correct approach to beef up services that are available to those who are trapped in prostitution, either through drug dependency or abusive partners. Such people must have the services that enable them to choose to find a way out of prostitution.

With the assurance that we will invest more in services, and for the reasons that I have given, I hope that Mr Sheridan will seek to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SG

The problem with the minister's comments, well-intentioned and sincere though they are, is that all the witnesses from Routes Out in Glasgow and SCOT-PEP in Edinburgh from whom we took evidence told us that over the years of their existence—eight years in the case of Routes Out—the problem has been increasing, not decreasing. The problem is getting worse, not better. The evidence that we heard from those witnesses was that drug abuse is at the heart of the problem and that when people seek help to deal with their drug addiction, the resources are not available.

I think it was Stewart Stevenson who suggested that the Executive approach might shift the availability of drug treatment from general practitioners' offices to the criminal justice system. Stewart Stevenson knows that the reality is that many people are getting drug addiction treatment via the criminal justice system. When people seek assistance in the first instance, no places are available and there are not enough resources in rehabilitation.

David McLetchie said that my proposal in amendment 4 is a good idea, but that it had come "out of the blue". He knows, however, that it has not come out of the blue because he heard the evidence in committee. If it is a good idea, his having just heard it does not mean that it is not worthy of support.

Frances Curran said that we should shine the spotlight on the men who use the services of prostitutes, but that is what the bill proposes. Parliament should be very proud that for the first time it is shining the light on the users of prostitutes and proposing to criminalise them. If Frances Curran had attended the Local Government and Transport Committee's meetings, she would know that I and others wanted the fines for men who are found using prostitutes to be double what was originally proposed in the bill.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

You should be finishing now, Mr Sheridan.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SG

I know that we must shine the spotlight on the men, but the problem is that there are many women who simply cannot get access to the necessary resources. I think that the Executive opposes amendment 4 because it is a resource-laden suggestion. Rather than just lead to commitments that might not be forthcoming, it would make more investment mandatory. I will press amendment 4.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The question is, that amendment 4 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 3

For: Sheridan, Tommy
Against: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Canavan, Dennis, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Frances, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Eadie, Helen, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Finnie, Ross, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Rob, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Gorrie, Donald, Grahame, Christine, Henry, Hugh, Hughes, Janis, Hyslop, Fiona, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Johnstone, Alex, Kane, Rosie, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, Lyon, George, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McFee, Mr Bruce, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Petrie, Dave, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stevenson, Stewart, Stone, Mr Jamie, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinburne, John, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Murray, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Abstentions: Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, MacDonald, Margo, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 1, Against 100, Abstentions 8.

Amendment disagreed to.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. When you used your discretion to extend the debate on group 2, you indicated that you would take the time back from the debate on the motion to pass the bill. I hope that you will consider taking the time from the following debate, which is on organic farming, because legislating is the most important thing that Parliament does and we should not curtail debates on the passing of bills when there are other items of business from which time could be recovered.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I will do what Presiding Officers normally do—I will look at matters over the piece. I am sure that everyone who wishes to be called will be called.