Sex workers 'deserve protection'

Last updated 05:00 26/06/2014

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Sex workers in Christchurch are experiencing violence or abuse on at least a monthly basis, police say.

Detective Senior Sergeant Darryl Sweeney, the adult sexual assault team manager, said police were concerned by the "fairly common" victimisation of Christchurch's prostitutes, much of which went unreported.

Sex workers were often reluctant to interact with police, even if they experienced violence. Police were in constant contact with the Prostitutes' Collective to "break down any barriers", he said.

"At least monthly we are dealing with a working girl being victimised in some way, if not more. When they do come forward, it's taken very seriously," Sweeney said.

Last month, a sex worker in her 20s was assaulted in Cambridge Green, near the intersection of Barbadoes and Salisbury Sts, about 2.15am.

Connor Stephen James Galloway, 20, was arrested three days later and charged with assault with intent to commit sexual violation. He will next appear in court on July 28.

In early March, two street prostitutes were attacked on the same night.

One was sexually assaulted on an empty section in Bealey Ave, between Manchester and Madras Sts, about 3am.

Two hours later, another was punched in the grounds of the St Mary's Pro-Cathedral, next to St Mary's School.

No arrests have been made for those incidents.

Daniel Juan Daly, 29, who was convicted of assaulting one of two prostitute complainants, but acquitted on 11 charges, including rape and kidnapping, was ruled out of the March attacks.

He was in Nelson at the time.

Sweeney said any sex worker had the right to withdraw consent at any time.

"Just because you agree at the outset to a service, doesn't mean that when it goes wrong that just because there is payment involved that nullifies any criminal charge," he said.

"They can complain and police will take them seriously. It's society's obligation to look after them."

Prostitutes' Collective regional co-ordinator Anna Reed said the organisation "worked hard" to encourage sex workers to report violence to police, and make them aware of their rights.

The reported incidents would be "only a small amount" of what occurred, she said.

"It would have to be extremely bad [for them to go to police]."

Daly's acquittals on Monday could have "huge implications", Reed said.

There seemed to be little public sympathy for prostitutes.

"If people feel they are not going to be believed, why bother?," she said.

Sweeney said police regularly patrolled Manchester St and closely monitored CCTV footage .

The Christchurch City Council plans to set up temporary facilities for sex workers on Manchester St, with toilets, lighting, a security camera and a needle receptacle.

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Cr Ali Jones said a public meeting was "next on the agenda" for the proposal.

- The Press

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