Prostitution laws need to address online solicitation: chief

Some prostitutes in Sudbury are soliciting online and police say there isn't a law to stop it.

Some prostitutes in Sudbury are soliciting online and police say there isn't a law to stop it.

Police note the laws are outdated and don't address online prostitution.

Greater Sudbury Police Chief Frank Elsner said it is a grey area.

"The legislation is so old that it really hasn't caught up to the 21st Century," he said.

In March, Ontario's Court of Appeal ruled that sex workers should be able to legally take their trade indoors and pay staff to support them. The federal government now has a year to write new legislation to address sex work.

Elsner said these new laws need to include social networking and online prostitution.

The outcome of that could affect Erin Porter, a prostitute in Sudbury whose clients must go online to find her.

Communication is private

"My clients run the gamut from 20-year-olds to well into retirement age," said Porter, who uses an alias to protect her identity.

Most of these men have contacted Porter through e-mail. She said this makes their communication a private matter — and therefore a legal one.

After setting an appointment, Porter goes to clients’ homes or hotel rooms to meet the men.

While Ontario's Appeal Court has struck down the ban on brothels — saying prostitutes should be allowed to work safely indoors — the court has upheld the ban on soliciting for the purposes of selling sex.

It’s this grey area that leaves law enforcement officials scratching their collective heads.

For now, Elsner said enforcement will remain complaint-driven and focus on street-level prostitution.

"When people in their neighbourhoods say enough is enough, [and when] the traffic and all of the paraphernalia that comes with the trade is strewn on their lawn[s] … that's really where the issue comes in for us," he said.