Policing Vulnerability in Sex Work and Prostitution: The Harm Reduction Compass Model

Professor Teela Sanders*, Dan Vajzovic, Belinda Brooks-Gordon, Natasha Mulvihill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
148 Downloads (Pure)


This paper explores the current approach to the interaction between policing and sex work in England and Wales. It reviews the legal and policy context and outlines current policing guidance and priorities, introducing the Harm Reduction Compass as a mechanism to advance policing policy and optimise operational decision-making. Through critical discussion of occupational culture and reforms in policing, it also assesses how continuity, reliability, and transferability can be achieved across police forces within the existing hostile and outdated statutory framework. The Harm Reduction Compass (HRC) aims to focus policing resources on adult sexual exploitation and crimes experienced by sex workers by decoding the complexities of different individuals’ personal circumstances. This paper proposes a new framework as a model to aid operational policing by triaging different scenarios to reach the most appropriate response. This new model, which identifies autonomy and harm as the most significant indicators, addresses harm and vulnerability holistically and combines policing with public health and community-based approaches; this ensures the pathway to assistance and intervention is an integrated multi-partnership. The HRC is a step forward in progressing police culture around the use of language and in dealing with crimes against sex workers in the most appropriate way.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalPolicing and Society
Early online date30 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Nov 2020

Structured keywords

  • SPS Centre for Gender and Violence Research


  • Sex work
  • prostitution
  • policing
  • vulnerability


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