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PROSTITUTES' CALL BOX ADS COULD BECOME CRIMINAL OFFENCE

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The commons last night gave all-party support for the introduction of a Bill to make it a criminal offence to displ...
The commons last night gave all-party support for the introduction of a Bill to make it a criminal offence to display prostitutes' advertising cards in public telephone boxes.

Karen Buck, Labour MP for Regent's Park and Kensington North, was given permission to introduce a private members Bill to tackle the problem which, she said, was localised, but very severe in some cities and towns. As well as corners of central London, parts of Brighton, Southampton, Birmingham and other cities were awash with such cards.

She said there were two ways of dealing with the cards, which were becoming increasingly explicit and pornographic: a comprehensive call-barring scheme and the introduction of a criminal offence of carding. She said she had had a sympathetic response from the Home Office and the Department of Trade and Industry on both issues, and praised BT on its voluntary call-barring scheme and investment in cleaning up telephone boxes.

She explained: 'My Bill creates a criminal offence of carding. That will help reduce the number of carders, since penalties can be stiffer than the average fine of£200, which is little more to carders than an occupational hazard. A new criminal offence would replace the time-consuming, cumbersome and expensive process whereby the local authority or police must take out injunctions - even then, only after five prosecutions - by using the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertising) Regulations 1992.

'Westminster Council alone is spending£20,000 on serving 20 injunctions at the moment. A financial and administrative burden is being placed unfairly on certain police divisions in certain local authority areas'.

Ms Buck added: 'I am aware of the difficulties of drafting legislation on this issue, but I urge the Home Office to move swiftly and to resist partial solutions, which rely on local authority enforcement powers and may simply move the problem, particularly in areas of central London such as those that I represent, across a local authority border, from one block of streets to another.'

She said more than 80 MPs had written to her supporting firm action to tackle the problem.

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