We wrote a letter to the Yorkshire Evening Post following the reporting on the Daria Pionko trail. It didn’t get published but we want to share it with you as we need it to be heard at this crucial time when the managed approach is under review. Despite all the positivity around the Home Affairs Select Committee report, we fear the outcome of the review – as an organisation we will continue to fight for the safety and well-being of sex workers and we hope the council will take this and the benefits of the managed approach to the community as a whole into account in their review.
I write in response to “Life sentence for Leeds man who murdered sex worker Daria “ – 5th July 2016. The verdict and sentencing this week in Leeds Crown Court this week brought to awon end a harrowing few months; the result of the murder on Dec. 22nd of Daria Pionko. While it was the right verdict , in the words of her parents “ it will not bring her back” , words echoed by other women who knew Daria. The words of Detective Superintendent Simon Atkinson were clear :“Pierre was caught as a result of a detailed and comprehensive police investigation, which had an unprecedented amount of assistance from the other women working in the area and the third sector agencies that support them.”
As one of those third sector agencies who have been working with the women in Leeds for over 25 years, our evidence shows this development and positive relationship with the police is not an isolated incident. Specifically we have seen a marked increase in reporting by women of crimes, with full personal detail, enabling action on prosecution. (Since the introduction of the managed approach, reporting in Leeds has increased from 7% in 2012 to 52% in 2015). Reporting of crimes against the women as well as other crimes, (including burglaries and other incidents) has risen now the women no longer fear being arrested by the police. In the past year, we have seen this result in 3 convictions of 8, 10 and now 22 years of criminals who posed a threat to the women and to the community of Leeds as a whole. Moreover, the managed approach has benefited the wider community, leading to a reduction in sex work in residential areas, improved clean up services and a reduction of women working during business hours, all of which were set out as the intention at the start of the managed approach.
The verdict comes at a significant time as the managed approach is under review. Last week the Home Affairs Select Committee published a report recommending not to prosecute women who are soliciting, as this places them at greater risk. We hope that this verdict sends a clear message to those targeting sex workers: that women will be heard and police and authorities will act on any abuse or harm of women sex working and that justice will be secured. Basis Yorkshire will continue to support the women and work with partners to ensure the safety and well-being of women sex working. This tragic case has also shown us that the women themselves are empowered to actively engage with the police in reporting incidents of violence and harm, for themselves, other women and the community.
We sincerely hope that the council, the police and all others involved in this review consider both the difference this approach has made to the safety and well-being of the women sex working as well as the difference it has made to the safety and well-being of the whole community.
Chief Executive Basis Yorkshire