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The appalling murders in Suffolk have opened up the whole question of why women sell their bodies on the streets - and what we can do about it. Ros Dodd has a radical solution.

It's heartening to know how much the police - and the rest of society come to that - care about the fate of Ipswich's surviving prostitute population.

After three of the five murder victims' bodies were found last weekend, the not-so-aptly named Jacqui Cheer, Assistant Chief Constable of Suffolk, issued the following warning: ‘My message to you is simple - stay off the streets. If you are out alone at night you are putting yourself in danger.'

At least one of the latterly found victims, Paula Clenell, was alive to hear this advice, but paid no heed. Interviewed by a TV reporter shortly before she too went missing, the 24-year-old spoke haltingly of ‘having' to resume work on the sleazy streets of Ipswich's red-light district because she couldn't afford not to.

By ‘having' to trawl the kerbs for business, she meant she needed money not to live but to fund a drug addiction, which was also the case with at least two of the other murder victims. One press report claimed Paula had to earn a staggering £500 a day to feed her craving.

The police, as well as the general public, are appalled by the killings, but not appalled enough to put in place the one thing that might keep these wretched girls off the streets - offering free drugs or narcotic substitutes to remove the reason they have to trawl for business in the first place.

The fact that these girls are desperate enough to risk being murdered to fund their dependency should surely have prompted the kind of police ‘protection' that really would help these girls.

Patrolling the dingy streets of Ipswich is simply not enough to keep the city's vulnerable prostitutes safe. In all likelihood, the women will ply their trade elsewhere - and no doubt the serial killer will anticipate this. Alternatively, the street workers will turn to other illegal avenues to get cash, namely theft and burglary.

The police, whose line of work constantly takes them into contact with people who have a serious drug problem, ought to understand the death-defying cravings of such addicts, yet all they've done is warn prostitutes to stop working. It's simply not enough.

The Suffolk murders have highlighted the drug-fuelled underbelly of our society, which is an ugly sight indeed. The squalor, degradation and sheer hopelessness of these women's lives is more akin to the Third World than to one of the most advanced, civilised countries on the planet.

Something very drastic needs to be done to combat the problems caused by drugs - legalising them being one option - but it requires a dedicated, long-term strategy.

In the short term, while the maniac killer remains at large, the very least the authorities should do is to provide the vulnerable street workers of Ipswich with effective protection. And that equates to giving them free drugs.

Should addicts be given free drugs to save them from a life of prostitution? Leave a comment on The Stirrer Forum.


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