The Home Office is set to launch a pioneering scheme to alert sex workers about people with a history of violence, including rape.
The scheme, which is being launched in Manchester, will encourage sex workers to co-ordinate with police on a national scale. It also has the wider intent of taking murderers, rapists and other violent criminals off the streets.
Sex workers will be alerted by text, email or phone app about people who have carried out attacks. Online escort agencies, street sex workers and those working in brothels will all be able to access the warnings.
The National Ugly Mugs pilot scheme is based on an Australian system. Similar schemes have been operating informally in areas of the UK but this is the first time that information will be collated nationally.
Sex workers are generally unable to report crimes directly to the police as they themselves would face police action for prostitution. So instead they can go through local sex work projects, which can pass intelligence to the police anonymously.
The scheme will be managed by the UK Network of Sex Work Projects, an umbrella organisation of campaigners and academics.
One Manchester-based street sex worker, Naomi, welcomed the initiative:
I have been working on the streets for 17 years she said. I have experienced lots of attacks, rapes and attempted kidnap. It's good to know that someone cares about what happens to us, and that sex workers will be better protected.
Merseyside police have pioneered projects working with sex workers to share intelligence about violent attacks and have an above average rate of convictions for rapes carried out against sex workers and others.
The Metropolitan police, on the other hand, has a special team, and a half million budget, to harass sex workers ahead of the Olympic Games. (In the name of preventing the mythical mass 'trafficking' that is supposed to occur at major sporting