Don't miss a thing by getting the day's biggest stories sent direct to your inbox. Men accused of the offence may escape prosecution because the police are refusing to hand over details of prostitutes to the defence in order to protect the women's safety. The issue was legal after karate champ Richard Poole was caught with his trousers down by police during surveillance of a known prostitute - but the a charge against him poole kerb crawling was thrown out. He had been charged with the offence of kerb prostitution after admitting having to sex with the prostitute, to whom he had offered a lift in Manchester city centre.
Poole, 43, from Plas Road, Rhyl, denied kerb crawling, saying the woman got into his car for legitimate reasons initially. He insisted she would corroborate his story.
But police and a private detective could not trace the woman to bring her to court to give evidence. District Judge Miriam Shelvey then ruled that Poole could not get a fair hearing without her and the charge could not be proved.
Now Crown Prosecution Service lawyers and the police fear others who face prosecution for kerb crawling could demand that prostitutes give evidence in court in the hope the girls in question might not be traced or would refuse to give evidence. Police say prostitutes are among the most vulnerable people in society. It is their policy not to hand over their details of prostitutes to people facing charges.
Instead they will approach the woman and pass on the man's request to interview them.
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Police decided last year to target punters using prostitutes in the city centre after several complaints from office workers and shoppers harassed by the men. At the time the Manchester Evening News launched a name-and-shame campaign and published the identities of men convicted of kerb crawling. The result was a huge reduction in the of incidents of street prostitution in the city, with even a prostitutes' website warning it had become too risky for them to operate safely. But now Judge Shelvey's prostitution on Poole's case may have opened a potential window of opportunity for other men who have actually been kerb crawling.
Poole's defence was that the prostitute had got into his car for a legitimate purpose when he responded to a request for a lift home from the city centre, and that the conversation turned to a sexual nature legal afterwards. To corroborate his version of events he said he wanted to call the woman herself as poole witness and asked the police for her name and address.
After a of adjournments and without the prostitute being traced, the judge dismissed the case, ruling that Poole had been a victim of ''abuse of process'' and therefore would be denied a fair trial if it went ahead without her.
Mr Poole's solicitor, Noel Griffiths, said by the time police revealed the woman's name and address - by court order - she had vanished and efforts to trace her failed. He argued it wouldn't be fair for his client to go on trial as he could not put forward a full defence.
Prosecutor John Werhun said police may be placed in a difficult position when asked to give the name and address of a prostitute to a prostitution, as this could backfire on them if anything went wrong. Prostitutes already face dangers as part of their job and handing poole their details may pose additional risks. Mr Werhun added: ''Not a prostitution goes by in Manchester when a prostitute is not murdered or raped. Judge Shelvey said it was ''most unsatisfactory'' that the police had refused to hand over details of the prostitute to the defence, resulting in the case taking legal a long time to get to trial.
The vast majority of kerb-crawler cases are settled with a guilty plea, chiefly because the evidence is normally overwhelming when a man is legal accepting sexual favours from a known prostitute who has poole under surveillance. But in Poole's case he had offered an explanation for what at first sight seemed an offence and was denied the chance to prove it.
The woman has committed no offence in law unless she has been seen ''loitering'' for a period of time. She is usually escorted by the police to a place of safety and invited to go home. Further, many prostitutes change addresses on a regular basis - and few are happy to be witnesses in court for either prosecution or defence.
But, should an accused man subsequently plead not guilty on the grounds he did not pick up the prostitute for the purpose of having sex, she might become an important witness. And if she cannot be traced, or refuses to appear, then - in the absence of other evidence - the case against the accused may be in jeopardy. Speaking generally on the issue a senior detective said: ''We were very pleased with the of the operation to target punters which, with the assistance of the MEN, was enormously successful.
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We will have to look at the situation carefully. A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: ''We will be discussing the ramifications of this decision with the police.
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