The Oldest Profession

National Ugly Mugs

On the 6th July 2012, the National Ugly Mugs Pilot Scheme was launched at Manchester Town Hall to improve the safety of sex workers by; alerting them to dangerous individuals who target sex workers , increasing confidence in and the reporting of incidents to the police, enhancing the level of intelligence regarding crimes committed against sex workers throughout the UK and enabling earlier identification, detection and increased prosecution of repeat, mobile and dangerous offenders who target sex workers and other members of the community.

The National Ugly Mugs Pilot Scheme, managed by the UK Network of Sex Work Projects (UKNSWP), is currently funded by the Home Office. Research has shown that because sex workers are targeted they are vulnerable to crime and violence, but crimes against sex workers often go unreported to the police.

UKNSWP has for many years recognised that the laws on sex work in the UK are problematic and that the continued stigmatisation of sex workers impacts detrimentally on their safety, health and rights. These also contribute to a challenging relationship between sex workers and the police, as the people who are tasked to protect sex workers are also those who can arrest them or the people they work with. This lack of trust and confidence amongst some sex workers is one of the key barriers to the reporting of crimes against sex workers to the police.

Ugly mugs schemes originated in Australia when sex workers organised themselves to alert each other to dangerous individuals (referred to as ugly mugs or dodgy punters) and have existed at local level in the UK for over 20 years. However, both sex workers and those who pose a threat to them are mobile so the UKNSWP have advocated for a nationwide ugly mugs scheme for over 10 years.

The Scheme will work alongside and complement existing local ugly mugs schemes and warning boards on escort forums and allow sex workers to report incidents to a central national point if they feel reluctant to report directly to the police. It will also offer the option for individual sex workers who may not be in contact with a local project to report incidents directly into the Scheme.

The Scheme will issue, legally compliant alerts by e-mail, text message or phone app to warn sex workers of dangerous individuals. In addition if, and only if, the victim gives consent, the Scheme will feed the data anonymously to police intelligence and, in particular, SCAS who currently have a database of over 20,000 serious sexual offences. So, just to clarify if consent is given then the NUM Scheme will pass on report information to police intelligence hubs removing the name and contact details of the victim and any address included which might identify a sex worker's place of work. If consent is not given then NO information about your report will be passed on to police intelligence systems. The information will only be used to produce alters to warn other sex workers - these will not include the victim's name, personal details or address of their place of work.

Sex workers can also contact the scheme to get information about directly reporting to the police should they wish to consider this. UKNSWP stresses that it is absolutely crucial for both the credibility of the Scheme and the UKNSWP that no personal information or anything that can identify individuals or the areas/premises in which they work is passed on to police intelligence without consent. Although the Home Office have funded the Scheme, it is being managed and run independently by the UKNSWP and therefore the Home Office DOES NOT have access to any data or personal information about members, indeed this would be in breach of Data Protection Laws.

UKNSWP believes a national scheme can play a role in preventing, murder, rape and other crimes committed against sex workers and other members of the public. It can play a role in improving police response to crimes against sex workers and building confidence. It sends out clear messages that sex workers have a right to protection and justice, crimes against them will be taken seriously and offenders will not get away with their crimes.

Visit the National Ugly Mugs Scheme

I am happy to give my full support as a Champion for the National Ugly Mugs Scheme as it provides a mediator between the police and the victim. There is a real danger of escorts not reporting often very serious crimes because of their fears of being prosecuted, investigated or not taking seriously. The men who target sex workers do so because they know this. From my experience with helping other escorts start-up, I know this scheme can help save lives and protect sex workers and escorts and lead to more reporting of crimes that are all too often ignored leading to even more serious crimes being committed.

- Josh Brandon, International Award Winning Male Escort and National Ugly Mugs Champion

The National Ugly Mugs Scheme is ground breaking and will build on all the fantastic work of local schemes and online sites and forums in improving the safety of sex workers. Everyone has the right to live their lives free of persecution and violence and also the right to protection from the police. I really believe that this Scheme can and will save lives.

- Alex Bryce, Coordinator of the National Ugly Mugs Pilot Scheme

NUM is a very important step in recognising the human rights of sex workers to security of the person & equality in the justice system. It provides a practical national scheme which for the first time links local project schemes, online forums and provides another option for sex workers throughout the UK to report directly into it and receive alerts. It is the only national scheme where, if sex workers choose, they can get intelligence to police specialist analysts through an independent third-party and also be advised about reporting directly to the police should they wish. It will encourage police forces to engage more proactively with ugly mugs schemes and implement their duty of protection to sex workers. Alongside this positive scheme, UKNSWP will continue to highlight policing practices and laws which impact detrimentally on the safety & rights of sex workers in the UK.

- Rosie Campbell, Chair, NUM Advisory Group and founder member of UKNSWP

The scheme will form a lifeline for people like me all over the country, many of whom have no access to sex work projects and because of their personal circumstances and stigma, feel they have nowhere to turn in the event they are victims of crime. Allowing us the means to provide important information to the police anonymously and without fear of exposure or recrimination will not only catch criminals, it will save lives, and this scheme tells the world in no uncertain terms that our lives are just as important as everybody else's.

- Amy Vergnes, a representative of Support And Advice For Escorts (SAAFE) and a National Ugly Mugs Champion.

The National Ugly Mugs Scheme is a crucial step forward in improving the safety of sex workers and, indeed, the wider public. We know that sex workers are targeted by violent criminals but, for many reasons they don’t report to the police what are often very serious crimes committed against them. I have no doubt that this Scheme will give us better intelligence about dangerous individuals, support police investigations and ultimately help us bring these violent criminals to justice. Everyone has the right to police protection and access to the criminal justice system and this Scheme will help us ensure that this notion is a reality for sex workers.

- Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Martin Hewitt, Met Police, ACPO lead on Adult Sex Offences.

I applaud the Government’s decision to support a pilot National Ugly Mugs Scheme. This valuable project has been such a success across the UK on a local level. A nationally coordinated version will go several steps further in helping prevent violence against sex workers. While sex workers tend to distrust the police, Ugly Mugs is a vital route for sex workers to report crimes and warn other sex workers about potential criminals

- Andrew Boff, London Assembly Member, author of ‘Silence on Violence’

This scheme is a great opportunity to bring the reporting of ugly mugs into 6th gear! It offers more flexibility for sex workers at a time when transience for work is an everyday part of the modern sex industry. This is our collective opportunity to improve safety at work. Rock on the Pilot!

- Jane Ayres, Praed Street Project

I am delighted that a National Ugly Mugs Scheme is at last in the process of development. My research indicates that those who use violence towards sex workers are frequently repeat offenders, and may well offend in more than one area. Having a nationwide protocol for reporting, recording and disseminating information about attacks to other sex workers will assist in apprehension of offenders and create a unique resource to monitor patterns of violence against a uniquely vulnerable group. For the scheme to succeed, it is vital that all projects for sex workers participate, working with their own clients to promote the safe reporting of violence, and with their local police to promote good practice in how such crimes are handled. I wish the scheme every success.

- Hilary Kinnell, author of ‘Violence and Sex Work in Britain’

This is an invaluable toolkit for preventing and tacking violence against sex workers and is the culmination of over a decade of work by projects to get this issue onto the national policing agenda. An excellent example of collaborative working between projects, police and sex workers, we hope this will send the core message forward that crimes against sex workers should be taken seriously with the appropriate resources to deal with them.

- Dr Teela Sanders, Reader in Sociology, University of Leeds who has been researchingthe sex industry
for the past 10 years and was Chair of Genesis Sex Work Support Project, Leeds

I am thrilled to be a champion of the National Ugly Mugs Scheme. As the lead health commissioner for the Havens- the 3 SARCs in London, it is vital that SARCs and other stakeholders, actively engage in the Scheme to support our clients and our intelligence systems. It is an privilege to be asked to be a NUM Champion, the work of the National Ugly Mugs Pilot Scheme is vital to the identification of dangerous sex offenders and to protecting women.

- Hong Tan, Director of the London Sexual Health Programme.

The National Ugly Mugs initiative is an important step in enhancing the safety of sex workers. This is particularly true of those people who are most vulnerable who work ‘on-street’, however, it will definitely heighten the safety of others in the industry and the wider community, as those that prey on sex-workers don’t only confine their offending to that group of people. The initiative is a means of providing information, regarding not only those that physically assault and steal from sex workers but also those that pose real threat of sexual violence and murder. Ugly mugs can assist in the provision to the police of what is effectively precursor information, which may assist the police to take pre-emptive action to prevent an escalation of the offending by the person concerned. I am really confident that this opportunity will assist in the development of further partnership working between outreach projects and police forces, which will enhance public safety and provide reassurance to individuals that police forces will take issues notified to them seriously. All people have a human right to protection and justice, which ugly mugs will enhance.

- Detective Superintendent, Tim Keelan, Merseyside Police