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NSW Police Force

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NSW Police Force

Since 1996 the police’s role in regulating the sex industry in NSW has fallen. Because sex work is no longer a criminal offence, the police cannot arrest someone for being a sex worker. The police force also no longer has the power to shut down a business simply because it is providing a sexual service.

The NSW Police Force may enforce laws about:

  • where street sex workers solicit and work
  • the licensing of security guards and their employers
  • crimes including harassment and sexual assault
  • the age of sex workers (they must be at least 18 years old)
  • people ‘living off the earnings’ of street workers (rarely enforced)
  • the advertising and use of massage premises as sex services businesses (rarely enforced)
  • soliciting, sex work and ‘indecent’ stripping on licensed premises (rarely enforced).

Police Sex Worker Liaison Officers (PSWLOs)

Police sex worker liaison officers have been established in some police stations to help sex workers in their dealings with the police. Sometimes they have a conflict between the roles of protection and law enforcement, but ideally they are cooperative and aware of sex worker issues. They can help you with:

  • outstanding warrants
  • harassment by partners, clients, employers or other workers
  • sexual assault
  • contacting other police and
  • any other business you may have with the police.

Strategies for dealing with NSW Police

If the police approach you about a matter:

  • stay calm
  • exercise your rights—remember sex work is legal
  • ask for photo identification and a badge
  • remember they can only enter premises without consent if they have a warrant or if they believe that a crime is being committed
  • you do not have to give them your name or ID unless they believe that a crime has been committed at that place.

NOTE: Undercover police officers do not have to identify themselves if asked directly by a sex worker.

The police are not the regulators of the sex industry, so they have no part to play in whether premises have development consent from council. That is the council’s job.

Police acting improperly—illegal or corrupt behaviour

It is illegal for police to act in a corrupt or threatening manner. You can report any police officer acting in an improper manner to the local Superintendent, the Ombudsman’s Office or the Police Customer Assistance Unit.

SWOP can provide advice in these matters.

Getting legal help

Legal Aid lawyers may offer free advice or represent you in court if you are eligible for legal aid.

SWOP can refer you to community legal centres and lawyers who are familiar with the industry.

SWOP help

SWOP can:

  • provide legal information and referral to lawyers for you or your employer
  • put you in touch with the local police sex worker liaison officer
  • help you in making complaints about police practices.