Prostitutes can be sued over services

Last updated 16:21 26/03/2014

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Prostitutes could be sued for breaching the Consumer Guarantees Act, the same as any other service provider, a law professor says.

A man who tried to sue a prostitute for compensation and damages had his claim dismissed in the High Court in Auckland.

The man's long-running legal proceedings were described by Justice Peter Woodhouse as a "sinister use of the court's processes".

But Canterbury University associate law professor Cynthia Hawes said prostitutes were technically subject to the same laws that apply under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

She said sex workers were no less accountable than other service providers.

"As long as they were operating legally there could be a jurisdiction or tribunal for a court to hear a claim," she said.

"'Services' is defined very widely in the Act. It could come under provisions for entertainment, recreation, or for basic supply of goods or services.

"Even outside the Consumer Guarantee Act, if you've made a contract with somebody there could be a case. A contract of prostitution is not unlawful in itself."

Hawes said she wasn't aware of many precedents involving court cases with prostitutes, but she said there could potentially be a range of contract areas clients could pursue.  

"It's not unknown. It would be uncommon because I imagine most people would not want any airing of their concerns of that nature in an open court environment.

"It could be a bit embarrassing, but if you're not worried about that then I don't see why you would be unable to (sue)." 

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- Fairfax Media

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