In 2006, then Chief Constable Hogan-Howe of Merseyside Police decided that crimes against sex workers should be dealt with as hate crimes. Seeking to change the narrative surrounding the treatment of sex workers as victims rather than offenders, this approach addressed the vulnerabilities of sex workers and brought a public protection ethos to the forefront of dealing with those targeted in the sex industry.

In this video, DCI Cheryl Rhodes discusses the Merseyside Model which aims to target perpetrators of violence against sex workers through increased reporting and intelligence. Not only has this approach increased convictions for perpetrators of violence, but it has also improved relations between police and the sex work community. Through strong partnership work and early intervention, Dedicated Sex Worker Liaison Officers have sustained community relations, focusing on the building of trust as opposed to enforcement.

DCI Rhodes explores how the shift in police approach to treating violence against sex workers as a hate crime has provided a symbolic message to victims, perpetrators, and society that supports the idea that all victims warrant protection.

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Sex workers have long been victims of social polarisation, underpinned by a confusion around the criminal offence of sex work. In a 2016 study involving 240 sex workers in the UK, 49% said they were “unconfident” that the police would take their reports of violence seriously. In this video, DCI Cheryl Rhodes explains how Merseyside Police has expanded the local definition of hate crime to include sex work, and the steps they have taken to coordinate services for victims of sexual violence within the sex work industry.

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