1. ITV Report

Study into Cumbria's sex market

A report has been published which provides an insight into Cumbria’s sex markets and confirms they are far less extensive than in other areas in the country.

The study, undertaken during 2010/2011 by independent researchers found evidence of around 180 male and female sex workers operating in Cumbria on a regular basis.

But unlike some cities and towns which have a ‘red light’ district, Cumbria’s sex industry takes place mainly behind closed doors in hotels, people’s homes and other locations.

The report was compiled to provide a picture of the situation in Cumbria to help identify where local organisations can work together to improve existing support, and develop other services for those involved in the sex industry.

It explores the issues of survival sex work - where individuals exchange sex for accommodation, cigarettes, drugs and alcohol, food or other resources - and sexual exploitation.

Researchers found a strong relationship between survival sex and drug and alcohol use.The most common currency for female survival sex in Cumbria was heroin and money. Most males exchanged survival sex for money and accommodation.

As a result of the research findings, the adult and children’s safeguarding boards have agreed to build on the work they are already doing to ensure that staff in all agencies are able to identify those at risk of sexual exploitation at the earliest opportunity, intervene appropriately, provide support, disrupt and prosecute perpetrators.

Dr Rebecca Wagstaff, Cumbria’s Deputy Director of Public Health, spoke to ITV Border she explained that the low figures do not mean there's no problem in Cumbria, she also explained how everyone can play a part in helping people who are being exploited.

Assistant Chief Constable Michelle Skeer from Cumbria Constabulary explained to ITV Border that any allegations of sexual exploitation in the county will be robustly investigated she added:

“Sexual exploitation of any adult or child is fundamentally wrong but it is a sad fact that sex markets exist in most areas. This report confirms that, fortunately, there are far fewer people involved in sex markets in Cumbria in comparison to other areas.

“The recent case we saw in Carlisle where Azad Miah was imprisoned for 15 years for sexual offences and child prostitution demonstrates exactly how seriously police and the courts take this sort of crime. Anyone who is involved in this should expect to be arrested and prosecuted.

“Cumbria Constabulary works in partnership with other agencies like Cumbria County Council and the NHS to safeguard vulnerable adults and children and take early action to remove them from harm and escape vicious cycles of abuse.

“Sadly, we can only take action in situations we know of. Every single member of local communities has a responsibility to report suspicious activity so that agencies like police and children’s or adult services can intervene, offer support and stop exploitation before it happens."

– Assistant Cheif Constable, Michelle Skeer