July 23, 1995

Greg Middleton
Wendy Mclellan

Blitz on johns sham, prof believes

'It's the same old problem: we can't enforce the law'
-- Const. Anne Drennan

Criminologist John Lowman says Vancouver's latest crackdown on prostitution is a sham.

"It's a sham, it's a farce and it's hypocritical," said Lowman, a Simon Fraser Universtity professor.

Police are targetting men who buy sex in Mount Pleasant and so far they've arrested 150 suspects. They want the courts to order convicted johns back to the neighborhood to pick up usd condoms and needles.

But in one of the first cases to go to court, provincial court Judge Ken Scherling did not agree with Crown counsel Dolphi Havlovic's request that a man be sentenced to do community service.

Scherling said arrest was enough for the 41-year-old married man. "I feel the appropriate sentence would be an absolute discharge," the judge said.

Other judges have said they won't jail prostitutes or johns.

Vice-squad Sgt. Bill Openshaw would not comment on Scherling's ruling, but he said the attempt to stop street prostitution "is a farce."

"You're not going to force the kind of women who are working on the street into escort services, because they can't get licences."

Prostitution itself is not illegal, but it is illegal to arrange in public to buy sex.

Lowman noted the city licenses escorts and massage-parlour employees, many of whom are prostitutes.

"You lose the moral authority to punish some people when you allow it for others," he said.

Const. Anne Drennan said the Mount Pleasant crackdown is doing nothing to stop the men who are shopping for child prostitutes.

"We are not charging the customers of juveniles prostitutes," she said. "It's the same old problem: We can't enforce the law."

It is illegal to buy sex from anyone under 18. But police say that to win a prosecution they need the co-operation of the juvenile, or they must witness the act.

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Created: January 15, 1996
Last modified: July 2, 1997

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