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Rules confining Christchurch brothels quashed

29 July 2005

Brothel owners and sex workers are celebrating after a High Court decision in Christchurch quashed parts of a city bylaw which controlled where they could operate.

The council passed a bylaw last year restricting brothels to the central business district, but it was challenged by the Willowford Family Trust, which wanted to run a brothel outside the CBD.

It argued that the bylaw was unreasonable and repugnant because it effectively prohibited small suburban owner-operated brothels.

"It inverts a central principle of the act, namely that sex workers ought to be able to practice in a safe, open and secure environment," Willowford Family Trust lawyer Gerard McCoy QC said in June.

Justice Panckhurst said the bylaw was not valid in the terms of the Prostitution Reform Act.

He said while the bylaw was not unreasonable, it's practical effect was to prevent the existence of owner-operated brothels and quashed the sections of the bylaw relating to location.

Anna Reed from the Prostitutes Collective says the section of the bylaw was against the intention of the Prostitution Reform Act and was like a smack in the face.

"A great victory for whores against laws!" Reed says.

The collective says the banning of suburban brothels also denied sex workers the right to a legitimate method of leaving prostitution.

"So many people use working privately as a means to exit the industry. Just retaining one or two clients," says Reed.

The decision could have major implications for other councils trying to control the sex industry in their cities.

The Christchurch case was the first challenge to a brothel bylaw since the Prostitution Law Reform Act came into effect two years ago.

Another High Court challenge will be heard later this year against the Auckland City Council.

The Christchurch City Council says it will decide next week whether to appeal against the decision.

Christchurch city councillor Sue Wells says the court's decision will disappoint the wider community, which supported the by-law.

She says if it is unchallenged, it means brothels are no different to other businesses and can operate anywhere.

The council will meet next Thursday to discuss its next step.

Link to full article

Source: RNZ/One News