Who wouldn’t want to spend intimate moments with voluptuous and sensual women? It is every man’s dream to spend time in the company of a beautiful and desirable woman. That is exactly what you can enjoy when you hire an escort. However, many do it with trepidation as they wonder whether the escort business is legal in the UK. It can be unnerving to spend time with an escort while worrying about the legal ramifications if you are caught. While you are pondering over this, you are missing out on the adventure of a lifetime.
Of course, most people believe escorting and prostitution are one and the same. So, before we get into the legal aspects of the escort business, let’s look at the difference between escorting and prostitution.
It is a common mistake that people make – they believe that an escort and a prostitute are the same. However, there is a subtle difference between the two.
An escort is more for entertainment and leisure purposes while a prostitute is merely for satiating sexual desire. An escort can be a male or a female and people hire them for entertainment and companionship. Of course, an escort is always gorgeous and beautiful to look at. As the term suggests, escorts are meant to escort people to events, outings, and gatherings but there are many escorts who also provide intimate services for money.
Escorts are classy and are paid much more than a prostitute because it is about keeping up with appearances. So, just the most beautiful and handsome people are selected for escorting. They are paid for companionship and not for sex even if physical intimacy occurs. Hence, it is considered legal. On the other hand, prostitution is illegal as a prostitute provides sexual services for payment. That is the reason escort business is legal and escorts are considered professionals.
Unlike prostitutes who can be picked up from the street or a brothel, you need to book escorts through agencies. A person can select the kind of escort they want to spend time with. The same does hold true for a prostitute. You have to make do with the prostitute you get, without having a say. Furthermore, escorting ensures that escorts are safe while prostitution does not guarantee safety.
Now you know the difference between escort business and prostitution. This leads us to explore the legal terms of escorting or prostitution.
While escorting is considered legal in the UK, paying for sexual services is not. But what about other countries? How do they perceive escort services and escorts?
There are many countries, such as Germany, New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, and Belgium, where escorting is considered legal. And, there are an equal number of countries where escort business and sex work are illegal.
In about 15 countries, escorting is legal to a certain limit. That means that certain activities are considered legal while others come with legal consequences. One such country is the UK, where there are grey areas. In the UK, escorting is legal but every other aspect is considered illegal. Pimping, managing a brothel, and advertising sexual activities are illegal. People can work in the escort business but they cannot participate in the management process.
It is prudent to remember that advertising using phone boxes, curb-crawling, and pimping are crimes in the UK. But, thanks to the internet, escort businesses now have newer and more novel ways to advertise and still stay within the gambit of the law. However, depending on where the website of the escort agency is hosted, it can be a legal or illegal business. Usually, escort agencies represent escorts and these women and men are solely for companionship. If they provide sexual favours to clients, it is between them and the clients; the agency is not involved in it.
While we are discussing escorting in the UK, it is best to remember that any kind of escort service is illegal in Northern Ireland. Here, paying for escort services is a criminal offence. Clients are punished rather than the service providers.
In Great Britain, which covers England, Scotland, and Wales, escort services are legal. However, soliciting, curb-crawling, managing and operating a brothel, and pimping are illegal. Northern Ireland had similar laws but in June 2015, the laws were changed and now escort services are completely illegal.
In the rest of the UK (excluding Northern Ireland), there are laws that regulate sex work. However, law enforcement often turns a blind eye. Many brothels in major cities, such as Manchester and London, operate under the guise of massage parlours.
It is also prudent to remember that while the age of consent in the UK is 16 years, buying sex from anyone under the age of 18 is illegal. It is also a crime to pay for sex if a person is forced into sex work. This is to prevent sex trafficking and forced prostitution which are an offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Paying for sexual services where a prostitute or escort is under a pimp is also an offence under the Policing and Crime Act 2009. Clients can be charged with rape and brothels that facilitate the services can be closed down under this act.
While laws are easing in the UK when it comes to escorts and escort businesses, there are still undefined areas that lead to loopholes. Nonetheless, street prostitution is a crime as is pimping and managing a brothel. However, escort business is not a crime.
As stated earlier, paying for sexual services and providing sexual services are legal in the UK (other than in Northern Ireland). However, owning and managing a brothel, pimping, soliciting, curb-crawling, and buying sex from anyone under the age of 18 are an offence and will be punished.
To understand more about the laws in the UK, here are a few details that you should be aware of.
Prostitution in England and Wales is governed by the Policing and Crime Act 2009 and the Sexual Offences Act 2003. A person can privately work as a prostitute as well as an incall or outcall escort without worries as it is considered legal. However, street prostitution is illegal.
Soliciting in streets or public places is an offence. Thanks to the changes in the law, soliciting for sexual activities in a public place is an offence, and the person trying to buy the services can be punished by law.
If a prostitute is caught soliciting once in three months, it is considered an offence. The prostitute can be fined up to £1,000 besides being issued an order of criminal behaviour and mandatory attendance of rehabilitation meetings.
Section 47 to 50 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 governs the abuse of children through pornography and prostitution. Previously, controlling, facilitating, arranging, and inciting child prostitution was an offence. However, the law does have references to child prostitution any longer but any kind of sexual exploitation of a child is deemed a criminal offence.
Keeping, managing, or assisting in the management of a brothel is a criminal offence under the Sexual Offences Act 1956 and the subsequent amendment in 2003. If a person is convicted of managing, operating, or assisting in a brothel, the maximum prison sentence is seven years and the minimum is six months.
If two police officers witness an activity, they can issue a prostitute’s caution, which is non-statutory. This caution is used to demonstrate persistence and the recipient does not have the right to appeal it after receiving a caution. Furthermore, the receiver does not have to admit to their guilt or crime to receive the caution. The prostitute’s caution will stay on record of the person even if the law enforcement does not pursue criminal action against them.
Any person, whether they are in their vehicle or on foot, can be criminally charged if they solicit someone for sexual services. Previously, just the prostitute was charged but now even customers can be arrested if they promise or make payment to receive sexual services from a prostitute or if the prostitute is forced into providing the services. It is prudent to remember that clients can still be prosecuted even if they claim that they did not know the prostitute was forced in provide the services.
If a person causes or incites someone to become a prostitute so that they financially benefit from it, it is considered an offence. The same also holds true for pimping and operating or maintaining a brothel for profit. Under the UK law, the definition of a brothel is a place where more than one person offers sexual services for payment. If just one person provides the services in a commercial or non-commercial building, it is not considered a brothel.
Culturally, in the UK, advertising for prostitution was done euphemistically. This was done to avoid prosecution as well as to keep the values intact. For decades, prostitutes have been using specialist contact magazines to advertise, even though it was prohibited by law. Newspapers were also used as a way to reach potential customers but if a newspaper carries an advert for a brothel or another place that is illegal or where people are forced to offer sexual services, the newspaper can be prosecuted under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 for money laundering. As a result, most newspapers do not carry adverts for personal services. Instead, independent prostitutes and escorts have shifted to the internet. Social media and specialist websites are primarily used to advertise services.
Since the beginning of June 2015, it is illegal to pay for sexual services in Northern Ireland. The law, Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act 2015 was passed in January 2015.
In Scotland, under the Prostitution (Public Places) (Scotland) Act 2007, street prostitution, soliciting a prostitute, curb-crawling, and loitering in public places for sexual services are a crime.
Prostitution is one of the oldest professions and has been prevalent in the UK from the Roman era. Historians have found evidence of a Roman spintria on the banks of the Thames that shows a man and woman engaging in a sexual act. Many historians believe that spintria was used in brothels to pay prostitutes as well as to gain entry into the brothel.
During the mediaeval era, most of the brothels in were located in Southwark, and in 1161, bishops were allowed to give licences to brothels and prostitutes by Henry II. This resulted in a significant increase in brothels in that area. These brothels were referred to as stew houses as many also doubled up as bathhouses. These places were often frequented by priests, friars, and monks.
During the mediaeval period, forced prostitution was banned and brothels had to stay closed on holidays. Prostitutes could not get married or live in brothels but they had to spend the entire night with clients. Prostitution was regulated through the enactment of laws rather than using measures to suppress them. Nearly all towns and cities in England had brothels and in some places, these places were publicly owned. The regulation lasted until 1546 when Henry VIII passed a royal decree banning them as fears grew that brothels were causing a spread of syphilis. This resulted in brothels being outlawed and prostitutes being treated extremely poorly.
In the 19th century, prostitutes as well as their clients were labelled as sinners, and prostitutes who were caught were punished as criminals and subjected to a month of hard labour. It was during this time that laws were passed to make it a crime for a man to live on the earnings of a prostitute. During the Victorian era, prostitution was considered an evil deed, and the first law to prohibit prostitution was passed that did not allow prostitutes to assemble in public places, like coffee shops.
Most women ended up in prostitution due to their personal circumstances. Majority belonged to the working class as they were paid low wages and were forced into prostitution to support themselves and their families.
In the 20th century, efforts were made to reduce prostitution. The Sexual Offences Act 1956 made running and managing a brothel an offence. To reduce street prostitution, the Street Offences Act 1959 was passed. It was to curb prostitutes from soliciting and loitering on streets and public places.
It is completely legal to be a prostitute or escort in the UK. However, you still need to know your rights and protect yourself from being arrested, getting prostitutes’ cautions, or being raided by the police.
1. In case police suspects that you are soliciting clients in public places, they are within their rights to search and fingerprint you. Under such circumstances, you do not have to provide the police with your name and address nor do you have to answer any questions. However, you should get the name and number of the policemen in case you want to file a complaint against them for unlawful stop and search.
2. If you are caught soliciting clients, you will be issued a prostitute’s caution. You need to receive two such cautions before you get charged for soliciting and loitering. Most advocacy groups inform escorts as well as prostitutes not to plead guilty when arrested if they were not working.
3. If you receive a closure order to shut down the premises where you are working, you will have to do so within 48 hours of receiving the order. However, you can challenge it by going to court and requesting an adjournment until you prepare your case.
4. Remember, running a brothel is an offence but you can use someone else’s apartment or flat for your profession. It is common for many escorts and prostitutes to share premises and hence, you should not worry if the police come to check. Do not allow them to enter without a warrant and make sure you get their names and numbers.
5. Women and men working as prostitutes or escorts should avoid isolated places as it increases their risk of being attacked or arrested. If a sex worker faces violence or rape, they should not hesitate to report it. Everyone, including escorts and prostitutes, have the right to protect themselves.
6. In case sex workers are fined, they can pay it in instalments based on their earnings and expenses. If you find it difficult to pay the fine, you can request the court to reconsider it or write off the fine. You also have the right to request that the fine is paid if you were kept in custody for more than 24 hours.
Escorting and prostitution are legal as long as you follow the rules and laws. However, for escort agencies, it is completely different. Based on the prevailing laws in the UK, escort business is often considered the same as prostitution business. So, if you run an escort agency, you need to ensure that you remove all sexual references from your marketing collateral as well as conversations that you have with potential clients. Of course, a majority of escorts do engage in sexual activities because they get paid by the clients. That is a fact you need to accept when you are operating an escort agency.
Here are a few things that agencies can do to avoid legal problems:
While laws are stringent for escort agencies, you should ensure that you follow them. These laws are in place to protect escorts and minors from being exploited and forced into prostitution. Your agency should clearly state that it does not represent underage girls to give peace of mind to yourself and the clients who use the agency to connect with escorts.
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