Escort-Ireland.com has launched Ireland’s first ugly mug scheme.
Ugly mug schemes, also known as bad client schemes or dodgy punter schemes, aim to improve the safety of sex workers, and reduce crimes committed against them, by alerting them to dangerous individuals.
The Prostitution Collective in Victoria, Australia developed the first ugly mug scheme in 1986. The first schemes in the UK started in Birmingham and Edinburgh in 1989.
Ugly mug schemes traditionally involved prostitute outreach workers placing warnings about dangerous clients on notice boards in prostitute drop-in centres and clinics, but the Escort-Ireland.com system is an online service.
Patricia Albright, owner of Escort-Ireland.com and a former prostitute and escort herself, said “Escorts can log on to our bad clients system 24/7 and browse and search reports. They can search by date, location, the type of offence or the phone number / email address that the bad client used.”
“An important feature of our system is that escorts can choose to be warned about dangerous punters by text message. Most escorts do not have Internet access at all times, but an escort is never without her mobile phone. We want escorts to get the warning as soon as possible when there is a dangerous client about.”
“In some countries there are sex worker support organisations operating ugly mug schemes, but there isn’t any here as far as we know. There is very little support available to sex workers in Ireland in general. We think an ugly mugs scheme is greatly needed here and an online service is ideal given that these days most sex workers are working indoors and using the Internet.”
Escort-Ireland.com is by far the biggest website advertising escorts in Ireland. Several hundred escorts are advertised on the website at any given time and all these advertisers will have access to the new bad clients system.
Sex workers frequently suffer violence from clients and others in the course of their work. Crimes committed against sex workers are often not reported to the police. Many offenders are repeat offenders. Research has shown that men who murder sex workers generally have a history of violence against sex workers and others. The violent murders of Dublin prostitutes Belinda Pereira and Sinead Kelly in 1996 and 1998 respectively both remain unsolved.
Patricia Albright said “We hope that escorts will report attacks to us. They can do this in confidence from our website or they can contact us by telephone. We will record the information about the bad client that they provide us with and then circulate a warning to all escorts.”
Of those who attack sex workers, Patricia Albright said, “We want to deliver the message that any violence against sex workers is unacceptable and criminal.”
 Good Practice Guidance Ugly Mugs and Dodgy Punters, UK Network of Sex Work Projects (UKNSWP), 2007.
 Undercover Ireland: The Sex Trade, TV3 Ireland, 2008.
 Tackling Street Prostitution: Towards a Holistic Approach, Hester, M., & Westmarland, N., 2004.
 Penfold et al,Tackling Client Violence in Female Street Prostitution: Inter-Agency Working Between Outreach Agencies and the Police, 2004. Church et al, Violence by Clients Towards Female Prostitutes in Different Work Settings, 2001. May et al, Selling Sex In The City: An Evaluation of a Targeted Arrest Referral Scheme for Sex Workers in Kings Cross, 2001.
 Brookes-Gordon, The Criminal Careers of Kerb Crawlers in London, 1999. Kinnell, Murder Made Easy (in Sex Work Now, Campbell, R., & O’Neill, M.), 2006.