Is escorting legal in the UK?

What is the size of the UK sex worker sector? 

Is escorting legal in the UK? It is worth considering the size of the sex work industry before tackling the primary question. In 2016 the House of Commons conducted its first enquiry into the sex industry. At the time, it was believed that Britain had approximately 70,000 sex workers. These individuals earn an average of £2,000 a week. These workers included street prostitutes, escorts, brothel employees, and massage parlour workers. The figures translate to the UK sex industry being worth an estimated £7.28 billion annually. The demand has not subsided with the UK being both a diverse and a popular travel destination. Both the workers and clients come from a mix of backgrounds.

Escort in lingerie laid on the rug

What is the difference between escorting and prostitution?

In general, prostitution is defined as the exchange of money or items of value for a sexual act or acts. Escorting is the exchange of something of value for an escort’s time and entertainment. While the differentiation between these categories of sex workers does not carry much weight in the UK, in other jurisdictions it can mean the difference between a service being legal or not.


Is escorting legal or illegal in the UK?

From a purely legal point, the definition of prostitution is outlined in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. It states a prostitute is an individual who offers sexual services to another in exchange for a financial gain. And while prostitution itself is not illegal in the UK, there are related elements that are. These are:

    • Pimping, which is generally considered to be the controlling of prostitutes and taking part of their earnings in return.
    • Running a brothel, with the actual offence being that of keeping, managing, acting or assisting in the management of a brothel. And while there is no statutory definition of a brothel, the authorities seem to recognise one when they see it.
  • Kerb crawling, which relates to soliciting sex while in public. Leeds experimented with a Red Light District which allowed open solicitation. More on that later.
  • Placing business cards or flyers in public areas to market sex work. This only highlights the benefits of using an online escort directory such as Cupid Escorts.
  • Engaging in sexual activity in a public place.


The Red Light District

In 2014, the Leeds Council began managing what would come to be referred to as Britain’s first legal red light zone. Under the program guidelines, a designated area of the Holbeck neighbourhood, located in South Leeds, would allow for open street solicitation, commonly referred to as kerb-crawling. The zone’s operation as an open-air sex market was limited to the hours of 20:00 until 06:00. The program was meant to reduce problems associated with unregulated kerb-crawling, allow for better engagement with sex workers, and ultimately allow these workers to leave their livelihood when they were ready.

Strict rules were coordinated between the City Council and West Yorkshire Police to ensure adherence to the limitations of the zone. The experiment attracted national attention and even spawned a 13-episode BBC documentary series called Welcome to Holbeck – Life in the Red Light Zone. Still, residents, local businesses, as well as moral objectors complained. The complaints, violations of the rules, along with the murder of a sex worker in December 2015, led to the project being officially scrapped in June of 2021.


Booking an Escort

While kerb crawling can be found throughout the UK, it is neither legal nor advisable to procure the services of these individuals. Aside from criminal, health, and other considerations, these workers may have been trafficked. The last thing anyone needs is to be involved with this ugly side of the criminal underworld. The fact is that there is no need to go to the streets when the internet puts the UK erotic services world at your fingertips. Reputable escort directories such as Cupid Escorts provide an easy menu to navigate and contact details for your preferred companions. Staying on the right side of the law while having a ball of a time is easy in the UK, so have at it!