Where Are Liverpool’s Sex Workers Now? A Mersey Mash Investigation

By Hannah Martin,

It’s been three years since BBC’s Four Pounds for Sex highlighted the impacts of Liverpool’s ‘Red Light District’.

The programme labelled Kensington’s Sheil Road area as one of the cheapest places to buy sex in the UK, and was also home to one of the highest rates of organised crime in the city.

Since then, police and local council have put efforts in place in an attempt to crackdown on crime. Local opinion is split as to the effectiveness of the different strategies.

The local charity, Streetwise who go out every Friday and Saturday night offering hot drinks, sandwiches and support to street workers says: “The police are always changing their approach towards the women. For a couple of weeks they’ll be understanding and helpful, next week they’ll just start arresting girls on the spot. So the women don’t know who to turn to or where they feel safe.

“The girls have mainly moved from Sheil Road but now we no longer know where to look for them, this is a huge concern for their safety.”

40% of all crimes committed in the Kensington area during the past year have been related to violence and sexual assault.

Local business owner, Ellie Ward who lives next to Sheil Road disagrees that the police and council intervention has been as effective as they’ve made out. She said: “Some of the girls have moved elsewhere, but I still try to avoid it at night. Sheil Road will always be Sheil Road. There are prostitutes and pimps everywhere – I was approached last week by a man and a woman asking what I ‘was after’, it’s just not a nice area.”

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(Images taken on 14/2/2019 in Sheil Rd Park)Untitled.png

The Armistead Street Team is an NHS service who provide outreach throughout the city of Liverpool, in the streets and in areas where women typically work offering sexual services. They offer  free condoms, lubricants, HIV testing, information on sexual health and an emergency syringe exchange. They also host counselling sessions on issues around pregnancy, abuse, and addiction.

Martin Fenerty, Operational Manager for Armistead Centre said: “Many individuals who offer sexual services have spread out during recent years, many still staying near and around the Sheil Road area. Others have moved further afield in to other suburbs such as, Tuebrook and Anfield or further towards the city centre.

“The workers now tend to stay more hidden, down alleyways and taking customers to abandoned houses rather than cars or parks – however, this also still takes place. Because of this change it’s difficult to judge the percentage of sex workers and the crime linked with the service – there’s still a huge problem, it’s incredibly concerning and the individuals  involved are at continued risk. We’re proud our services help so many but we’re aware many workers don’t seek out counsel.”