back to article ACPO exec wants 'ugly mugs' database to protect sex workers

Society needs to be having a radical debate about the laws on prostitution – and the answer, according to Deputy Chief Constable Simon Byrne, ACPO's lead on prostitution and sexual exploitation, involves funding a national database of "ugly mugs". That is, a database of dodgy punters – or men suspected of attacking sex workers …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Punternet is a man of straw

    Punternet is organised as a man of straw, so there would be little or no point in suing it for libel, but an ugly mugs list would be published by the police. Without some kind of specific legislative protection, the policy would be subject to libel writs from anyone who appeared on the list and could claim they had nothing to do with it.

    I suspect the police wouldn't much fancy running such a list without some protection.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ACPO wants to head the Database State

    Even though the rest of the nation was and is pretty clearly against hoarding of data for such enlightened reasons as just because some ACPO DCC likes that best. Apparently a fetish, of sorts.

  3. Tim Worstal


    Hasn't punternet been doing this without govt money for years anyway?

  4. Captain Scarlet Silver badge


    Why do we need databases of everything?

  5. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Up

    It's a start, but it's a long way from proper decriminalisation

    We don't "need a debate" on this, the facts are already out there and the arguments boil down to a) As long as it doesn't cause problems for anyone else, it's their life and their business b) We don't like it, so they shouldn't be allowed to do it and c) The NIMBYs

    Of those only one argument really makes any sense and, properly implemented, would deal with the NIMBYs as well.

    So first of all get rid of the ridiculous law that say that two or more women working in the same building for their own safety counts as "running a brothel".

    Secondly allow them to employ security staff who *won't* be classed as pimps "living off immoral earnings" (in fact get rid of that stupid phrase altogether)

    Thirdly ensure that women (and men) working in the sex industry get the *full* protection of the law that they are entitled to, such that violence and other unacceptable behaviour against them isn't just considered to be "a risk of the job"

    Finally just get rid of the attitude that these women are automatically "victims" and "need help to get out of prostitution" whether they have got into it of their own free will or not. By all means protect those who are forced or trafficked into it, but if not, we don't need ham-fisted efforts like those from Harriet Harperson to close down sites like Punternet or criminalise men for failing to prove that a woman hadn't been trafficked (an impossible task)

  6. Anonymous Coward


    ... you could just legalise and license it, allowing girls to work in brothels guarded by a couple of blokes built like brick shithouses who would swiftly sort out anyone who tried any violence, rather than them having to brave what happened when parked up in the middle of nowhere.

    But no, let's set up a really expensive and probably ineffective database instead.

    1. Dave Bell

      I've very mixed feelings about the issues

      In the end, there seems to be something fundamentally misogynistic about the sex industry, whether within the law (such as porn) or not (prostitution). And it all reinforces some rather ugly thinking about women, with depictions of fun activities overloaded with hatred.

      Yes, all this stuff about the failings of the law needs to be sorted out. But Las Vegas was built with money from organised crime. Legal gambling didn't get rid of the bad guys. It needs a much more radical solution, if only because some police officers will always be finding ways to use the law.

      As it happens, I met a sex worker once, though she seemed to be more on the porn side of the line of legality, but what maybe makes her significant was that she was a union organiser as well. Look up anarcho-syndicalism and consider how that might work out: it's the sort of control that would be needed. implicit in the idea of prostitutes banding together for mutual protection. Without it, all we do is re-label the pimps. Human resources managers?

      1. Graham Marsden

        @Dave Bell

        Might I remind you that prostitution *is* "within the law", it's just that most everything around it (street-walking, "running a brothel", "living off immoral earnings" etc) which is illegal.

        There is already the International Union of Sex Workers who are affiliated to the GMB in this country who are lobbying for the right to decide for themselves how they are allowed to operate without threat of criminalisation.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Human Resources Managers == Pimps. Nonsense

        OTOH Recruitment consultants at contracting agencies....

    2. durandal

      Big society!

      Because Capita need the cash!

      (mine's the one with the pfi in the pocket!)

    3. Steven Knox


      If we had them, we could answer your questions (both the text one and the implicit one in your icon.)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In principle, I think you're part way there.

      'It' takes two to tango. Without the suppliers there'd be no customers. Those who needed 'it' - whatever it may boil down to - would either get 'it' some way or do without.

      Prostitution is exploitation - whichever way you look at it - and if it is going to be permitted, like child labour, it needs regulating and the conditions of work enforced.

      Sadly, in most cases, prostitution is a bit sleazy - especially sexual prostitution. It attracts the sleazy types to run it at the moment. Putting big burly men in charge of the door will make it like night club door enforcement. Much if not most and maybe all door enforcement is run by 'organised' crime with the blind eye of the authorities being turned for all but the most blatant crimes.

      Little benefit would be derived - I guess - but may be if it saves a few more punters and punted from danger and physical violence then it could be a better solution than the current situation.

      Not being in the business I have no better suggestions. If there was a bit less stigma then maybe those involved (punters and punted) might be listen to and their suggestions considered. But that would take a bigger attitude change than those in control of society are willing to make.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Some sort of title about databases [or whatever the moderatrix would prefer]

    ACPO Ltd have databases for DNA and fingerprints from everyone they invite in for a chat. They have databases for ANPR records from everyone who has the temerity to drive a road vehicle, and support it with unfettered access to DVLA's system in Swansea. They have unfettered access to London public transport travellers' records (Oyster), and will doubtless get the same nationwide as soon as the Department for Transport has rolled out its electronic ticketing system ITSO. (By the way, ITSO Ltd is another company that is "Private, limited by guarantee, no share capital", just like ACPO Ltd. See Companies House!)

    I am assured by those who sell such technology, that Facial Recognition works, and is already widely deployed in airports and other high security settings. This proposal is an early stage of collecting movement information on the whole population not otherwise captured. After all, most of the population have their ID photograph already in the State's hands for Passport and Driving Licence purposes. Why should ACPO Ltd waste the opportunity presented by the IPS and DVLA databases of individuals' photographs? It is already illegal to wear a disguise in public. [Unless it is part of your religion.]

    Please will my kids take the hint and leave the country? Where to? China seems to be a relatively free country by comparison!

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


      "It is already illegal to wear a disguise in public."

      Citation please

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Lets try

        "Going equipped" under the Fraud Act, or the Theft Act, or the Criminal Damage Act.

      2. Graham Marsden


        From the House of Lords on the 16th of December 2010:

        Asked by Baroness Miller of Hendon:

        To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in the light of the public disorder that took place on 10 November and 9 December, they will introduce public order legislation prohibiting the wearing of masks or disguises at otherwise lawful demonstrations, marches and protest meetings.

        Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the police already have powers under Section 60AA of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to require the removal of face coverings worn for the purpose of concealing identity. The police also have powers to seize such items.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Lets try 2

        Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, and Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, as amended by Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001

  8. Anonymous Coward

    "men suspected of attacking sex workers."

    So no conviction required before they plaster someones face all over the net as a violent perv.

    You would think that ACPO would actually believe in the due precess of law.

    Hang on, this is post Labour Britain, no such thing anymore.

  9. SynicNZ

    So that's a photo of every punter - just in case

    And we know how careful the govt is with data.

  10. Ray Simard

    Presumed guilty?

    "SUSPECTED of attacking sex workers?" (emphasis mine)

    If this database is run by law enforcement (or any part of government), being on it implies, if not in fact, then in appearance, some kind of culpability, despite the absence of any kind of due process. If it is public record--and I can't imagine such a thing being anything else--it would become, in the eyes of the public, a sex-offender registry, even if it's legally far from it. AFAIK, simply having conducted business with a prostitute does not merit inclusion in a public rogues' gallery of presumed perverts.

    Granted, this list would just about have to include suspects to be effective, and if privately run it could well do so, but I have to wonder if the stamp of government sponsorship and operation could be over the line.

    (The above, in case it isn't apparent, comes from a U.S. viewpoint, but I think that at least the general principles might apply in the U.K. YMMV)

  11. Jacqui

    ACPO - pork barrell

    The ACPO is the money marking arm of the police. In the old days if you ran a business you would be asked to make a donation to the police ball or retirement fund. Today they have the far better money making techniques such as speed trap "refresher" courses and publically funded databases as well as direct theft and resale of other peoples software.

  12. Is it me?

    Oh good just what they need

    Another database disjointed information, surely people who mistreat ladies of negotiable virtue are also likely to commit other types of abuse. Besides that it would be easier just to add a new type to an existing database rather than waste money on building new databases.

    Still if they do, I doubt much of it will be going Capita's way. I'd back Sungard or Northgate.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Big Brother

    AFAIK UK law is *very* odd

    It's like the soft drugs rules in the Netherlands, but *backwards*. You can be "legal" but still criminalized. How f****d up does that sound?

    It seems that, under the *right* circumstance you can operate effectively as a sole trader (IIRC there can now be up to 2 sex workers in any given "establishment"). In principle HMRC can treat them as a conventional small business (discussing write offs for CAPEX might be quite interesting depending on what sort of special interests you catered to) along with all the usual standard expenses. (I think you'd be zero rated for VAT)

    As for this "national dodgy punters database" WTF? How about "Convicted sex worker attackers" instead? Or how about licensed access to PNC2? (which should have that information).

    BTW "prostitution and sexual exploitation"

    prostitution - A contractual exchange of services for cash.

    sexual exploitation - use of violence, threats of violence or blackmail or other means (addicting them to drugs) to coerce people (of any age or gender) into performing sexual acts for money.

    Learn the f***king difference and *stop*conflating them.

    BB because I doubt this has *anything* much to do with improving sex worker safety.

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