The Regulation of Prostitution: A review of Recent Developments
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Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Briefing Paper No. 21/1999 by Stewart Smith
- The regulation of brothels and prostitution in NSW has had a long and difficult history. The Royal Commission into the NSW Police Force brought to light extensive corrupt links between police and brothel operators and was one catalyst for legalisation of brothels in the State.
- The history of the regulation of prostitution in NSW is outlined on pages 1 to 5. The legalisation of brothels in NSW commenced with the passing of the Disorderly Houses Amendment Act 1995, which legalised brothels and living off the earnings of a prostitute. The Act also amended the Crimes Act 1900 to abolish the common law offence of keeping a brothel and related common law offences. With the passage of the legislation, a brothel then became a commercial business requiring local council approval under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. In addition, the Disorderly Houses Amendment Act 1995 also provided a mechanism for local councils to apply to the Land and Environment Court to close a brothel (pages 5-6).
- With the commercialisation of the sex industry, there has been considerable concern in the community about the number and location of brothels. Local councils are now the chief regulatory authority to control the number and location of brothels in their respective areas. Local councils have two main legislative means to close down an illegal brothel or a legal brothel which is causing problems for the community. Firstly, if the brothel operation is in contravention of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, the council may apply to the Land and Environment Court for injunctive relief. Secondly, under s 17 of the Disorderly Houses Act, a local council may make an application to the Land and Environment Court for an order to close a brothel. However, the Council cannot make this application unless it has received sufficient complaints about the brothel to warrant making the application (pages 6-9).
- A major complaint about the current brothel regulatory environment is that controls are not extensive enough. There are no controls to ensure that those applying to operate a brothel are a fit and proper person. Another complaint is that councils are doing little to close down the illegal operators, and are not dedicating enough resources, or do not have enough resources, to do so (pages 9-17).
- There are calls in the community for reform of the legislation regulating brothels in NSW. As a comparison, legislation regulating brothels in Victoria is examined (pages 17-24).