New Scottish kerb-crawling law comes into force

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LONDON, Oct 15 (Reuters) A new law to tackle kerb-crawlers comes into force in Scotland today, with drivers found cruising streets for prostitutes facing a 1,000 pound fine.

Scottish MPs, who passed the Prostitution Act in February which makes it a criminal offence to solicit for sex, said they also hoped to give courts the power in future to disqualify offenders from driving.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said, while it was important to help those trapped in prostitution, the authorities needed to crack down on clients that fuelled the trade.

''This new approach to the problem of street prostitution shows we will not turn a blind eye to the people who sustain and fuel this exploitative trade,'' he said.

''It corrects an unfair legal position where only those engaged in prostitution could be targeted, while the kerb-crawlers demanding their services -- often harassing the wider community in the process -- get off scot-free.'' Jan Macleod, of the Women's Support Project, said the law was the first to directly challenge the demand from men to buy sex.

''It sends out the important message that it is this demand to buy sex which is the root cause of prostitution, and that whilst women in prostitution are there through lack of choice, the men are freely choosing to behave in this way,'' she said.

Assistant Chief Constable John Neilson, the spokesman on prostitution for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, said forces would embrace the new law.

''I think the many communities and businesses that have been blighted by the antisocial behaviour that kerb-crawlers create will also be relieved that we have the power to arrest persons who loiter in their areas,'' he said.

Reuters SKB GC1502

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