A critical analysis of perceptions of street-based sex workers, as victims of crime, by police officers and staff in a police service in the United Kingdom

Masters Thesis

Laidler, A. 2022. A critical analysis of perceptions of street-based sex workers, as victims of crime, by police officers and staff in a police service in the United Kingdom. Masters Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University School of Law, Policing and Social Sciences
AuthorsLaidler, A.
TypeMasters Thesis
Qualification nameMSc by Research

There are several research studies exploring sex workers perceptions of the police (Balfour and Allen, 2014; Sanders, 2016). The findings often show sex workers fear the police because of past experiences. The present study aimed to discover the perceptions of police officers and staff relating to street-based sex workers, as victim of crime. The focus was on professionals’ perceptions of sex workers as victims of crime because existing research suggests sex workers are unwilling to report crime over concerns their reports will not be taken seriously (House of Commons, 2016; Sanders et al, 2016). The research used a cross-sectional mixed methods research design and constructed a 20-minute online survey to be completed by individuals within a UK police service. Data was collected from a mixture of uniformed officers, detectives, and police staff (n=60). The online survey included a variation of the Attitudes Towards Prostitutes and Prostitution Scale (APPS). Levin and Peled (2011) found that overall perceptions of sex workers can be divided into normative and problem-oriented attitudes (Litam, 2019). The measures on the APPS scale represent the two dominant feminist perspectives of sex work, choice versus coercion. The liberal and radical feminist perspectives have been heavily debated due to their polarised views around sex work. Understanding attitudes towards sex workers is necessary for implementing change (Levin & Peled, 2011). The findings from the adapted APPS found street-based sex workers were perceived as more a normative part of society, than “socially deviant in nature” (Litam, 2019, p. 401). However, the overall perceptions of whether they were more victimised or choose to be street-based sex workers was mixed. 85% of participants were not aware of any strategies for policing sex work, corresponding with the results found by the National Ugly Mugs research, which found that 86% of officers had not heard of the NPCC guidance for Sex work and Prostitution (NUM, 2021). Police perceptions of street-based sex workers included a lack of cooperation from street-based sex workers, a lack of evidence when investigating the crime, the fact street-based sex workers were often involved in other criminal activity, and street-based sex workers were often victims of exploitation. The thesis concludes with recommendations designed to improve the relationship between the police service and street-based sex workers.

KeywordsStreet-based sex workers; Victims of crime; Critical analysis; Perceptions; Police service; Police officers and staff; United Kingdom
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Deposited14 Dec 2022
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