The Oldest Profession

Sex Laws Info

Living on earnings of prostitution


First of all, the term “living off immoral earnings” seems to have become something of an umbrella term for specific offences such as controlling prostitution for gain. There are a number of websites that advise that spouses, for example, can live off their partner's earnings from prostitution without risk of prosecution. This is rather misleading and needs clarification. While they may not contravene the specific provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 2003,, spouses/partners may well fall foul of the welter of laws relating to money-laundering and tax evasion (as can be seen from our Crimewatch section). Also, there are now two very important elements to consider: those of “control” and “gain” as mentioned in the 2003 Sexual Offences Act (see below).

Historically, Section 30 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 defined the position: It is an offence for a man knowingly to live wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution. For the purposes of this section a man who lives with or is habitually in the company of a prostitute, or who exercises control, direction or influence over a prostitutes's movements in a way which shows he is aiding, abetting or compelling her prostitution with others, shall be presumed to be knowingly living on the earnings of prostitution, unless he proves the contrary.

When the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 came into operation in May 2004, this 1956 so-called “living off immoral earnings” offence was redefined thus:
Causing or inciting prostitution for gain.

  • Section 52 makes it an offence for a person (A) intentionally to cause or incite a person (B) into prostitution anywhere in the world where A does so for or in expectation of gain for himself or for a third party. Although this offence is not specifically limited to where B is aged 18 or over, it is aimed at cases where B is an adult, as the offence at section 48 specifically covers cases where B is under 18. Although prostitution by adults aged 18 or over is not an offence in itself, this offence is intended to cover those who, for gain, recruit others into prostitution, whether this be by the exercise of force or otherwise.
  • Section 53 makes it an offence for a person (A) intentionally to control another person's activities relating to prostitution, in any part of the world, where A does so for, or in the expectation of, gain for himself or a third party.

Needless to say, the definition of “gain” is contentious, as is the extent of “control”.

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

If an escort is working lawfully, then her earnings are also entirely lawful and are hers to use as she wishes, just the same as any other worker.

However, the partners of brothel-keepers and escort agency owners may well attract charges of money laundering. Basically, under the Proceeds of Crime Act, the Crown has to prove that the laundered proceeds are "criminal property", as defined in S.340 of the Proceeds of Crime Act: that is to say that the property constitutes a person's benefit from criminal conduct. Brothel-keeping and controlling prostitution for gain are "lifestyle" offences and fall within the remit of POCA.

It follows from this that an independent escort is working lawfully, and commits no criminal offence, her partner cannot be said to benefit from "criminal conduct".

(We might also point out that the partners of streetwalkers, who work outside the law, could, in theory, fall foul of POCA - though their circumstances may be such that prosecution does not necessarily follow.)