The Law - Indoors
The law regarding sex work in indoor
establishments, whether licensed or
unlicensed saunas or flats, is governed
by the Criminal Law (Consolidation)
(Scotland) Act 1995. The most
important thing to remember is that it is
not illegal to work as a sex worker in
Scotland – but many other aspects of
indoor sex work are illegal, including
running a brothel or assisting in the
running of a brothel.
Section 7 - Procuring
This section is covers four offences, all
of which carry a sentance of up to 2
It is illegal to get a woman to have sex
illegally, or become a ‘common
prostitute’, anywhere in the world. This
could include encouraging a friend to
join you in working in a brothel or as an
escort in a country where selling sex is
illegal. Legally, ‘common prostitute’
means a street sex worker, so this
offence could include telling a woman
you work with that you’ve been
moonlighting on the street to make
some extra cash and that she should
give it a try.
It is illegal to get a woman to leave the
UK to live in or ‘frequent’ a brothel,
anywhere in the world. It is unclear
whether ‘frequenting’ would be limited
to working there, or if it could include
regularly dropping in. This could extend
to encouraging a friend to join you
working overseas in a legal, regulated
brothel (for example in New Zealand or
Nevada) – the offence seems to be
centred on the purpose for which they
leave, not the legality of what they do
once they have left the UK.
It is illegal to get any women to leave
her home in the UK to work in a brothel
anywhere, including in the UK. This
covers the same ground as the clause
above, but also means that if you tell a
friend in Newcastle that you’ve found a
great place to work and she should
come up, stay with you a few weeks and
give it a try, you’re breaking the law.
It is illegal to use threats, lies,
intimidation or false pretenses to get a
woman to have sex illegally anywhere in
Broadside pamphlet, undated but probably early 19th
century, with the story of a New Town brothel luring
schoolgirls to work there. This would undoubtedly be a
Section 9 offence today.
Section 8 - Abduction and unlawful detention
It is illegal to keep a woman against her will in a brothel, or anywhere where she is forced to
have illegal sex. Surprisingly, this only carries a sentence of up to 2 years' imprisonment.
Withholding clothing or property is specifically named as a form of detention, as is giving a
woman clothes and threatening to prosecute her if she leaves while wearing them, if it is done
to make her stay. It also says that no woman will be prosecuted for ‘stealing’ if the only way
she can leave clothed is to walk out wearing clothes she was given.
Section 9 - Permitting girl to use premises for intercourse
It is illegal for the owner, occupier or manager of premises to get, or allow, a girl under the age
of 16 to have sex there.
Section 10 - Seduction, prostitution, etc., of girl under 16
It is illegal for a person with parental responsibilities for a girl under 16 to cause or encourage
her to be seduced, work as a prostitute, have unlawful sexual intercourse or be indecently
assaulted. This carries a sentance of up to 3 years.
Section 11 - Trading in prostitution and brothel-keeping
It is illegal for a man (but not a woman) to knowing live in whole or in part on money earned
through prostitution. This extends to living with you or being ‘habitually’ in your company, if he
knows what you do for a living. If you’re a lesbian, you can give your girlfriend as much money as
you like, as long as she doesn’t ‘control’ you for gain – see below. Up to 2 years’ imprisonment.
It is illegal for anyone to 'exercise control, direction or influence' for gain over the movements of
a prostitute for the purposes of 'aiding, abetting or controlling' her prostitution. This applies to
receptionists at escort agencies who take bookings, owners who make up the rota, and anyone
who tells you where to go or when to work. Up to 2 years' imprisonment.
It is illegal to run a brothel - this covers owners, tenants, managers and anyone who acts or
assists in the running of the brothel. This law is what is used to target receptionists, but could
also potentially extend to someone who cleans up or does the sheets. Up to 6 months'
imprisonment and a maximum fine of £2500.
Section 12 - Allowing
child to be in brothel
It is illegal to allow a child
between the ages of 4 and
16, for which you have
responsibility, to live in or
frequent a brothel. Up to 6
months' imprisonment or a
maximum fine of £500.
In Scotland, saunas can
apply for entertainment
licenses by the Council
under the Civic
Act 1982, which ensures
that they comply with
health and safety
requirements, but these
are licenses for public
entertainment - it is still
illegal to run a brothel.
A plate from William Hogarth’s 18th century morality tale, A Harlot’s
Progress, showing the virtuous and chaste country girl Moll being
examined by Elizabeth ‘Mother’ Needham, a notorious brothel keeper
who died in 1730 after being assaulted by a mob.
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