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D uring the day the Holbeck industrial zone looks pretty innocuous. Perched on the southern edge of Leeds city centre, it backs on to residential streets peppered with betting shops, newsagents and takeaways.
Yet at night this industrial zone becomes something very different. Prostitution is not illegal in the UK but related activities, such as soliciting in a public place, pimping and kerb crawling, are unlawful. Five years on, as Leeds city council faces a firestorm of opposition and an inquiry is opened into the future of the zone, I went back to Leeds to see how the managed zone has affected the lives of those who live and work around Holbeck.
For the women who work in the zone at night, the biggest change is that they no longer face the prospect of arrest. She says that before the managed approach was introduced, things were awful. Those who support the managed zone passionately believe that what is happening in Holbeck is an opportunity to make life safer for the women working there. I ask Sarah if she feels safer working in the zone as opposed to outside of it.
Basis Sex Work, a pro-sex work NGO receiving funding from the city council to provide services to women on the zone, believes the approach has helped women report violent punters to the police. One report claims that since the launch of the zone, women are now six times more likely to report violent crime than they were in Yet she demurs when I ask her whether the managed zone is working out the way she thought it would.
Others who were involved in designing and launching the zone are less circumspect. Mark Dobson works for Leeds city council and was one of the main architects and champions of the zone when it launched. He was badly shaken by the murder of Daria Pionko , a Polish woman working in the zone who was battered to death by a sex buyer just a few months after the zone became operational.