Laws Relating to Sex Work (‘Prostitution’) in Western Australia

Police car lights and siren close up in Western Australia


It’s the world’s oldest profession, and also the most controversial. Whilst sex work (‘prostitution’) is decriminalised in many other Australian jurisdictions, Western Australia is unique in largely criminalising the practice.

Here’s what you need to know about the criminalisation of sex work and related activities in Western Australia.

What counts as ‘sex work’?

Whilst the term ‘prostitution’ is generally considered outdated, it is the term used under WA criminal law to refer to sex work.

Section 4 of the Prostitution Act 2000 (WA) defines ‘prostitution’ as:

…prostitution in which payment is consideration for the sexual stimulation of a person (the client) by means of physical contact between the client and another person (the prostitute ), or between either of them and anything controlled by or emanating from the other, and it is irrelevant whether payment is in money or any other form.

The legal status of sex work depends on the environment in which it is conducted and whether a third-party (such as a brothel-owner) benefits.


Offences related to private escorting in Western Australia

Private escorting (also known as “private sex work”) is where sex workers operate independently arranging their own contacts with clients. Some escorts may utilise an ‘escort agency’ which arranges interactions between clients and sex workers.

Whilst there are no criminal laws specifically outlawing private escorting in WA, a number of related offences make conducting this type of work difficult.

It is an offence under section 10 of the Prostitution Act 2000 (WA) to promote or publicise prostitution, meaning workers cannot legally advertise their services. This offence carries a maximum penalty of a $50,000 fine.

Criminal offences designed to outlaw brothel-keeping (see below) also deter landlords or hotels from hosting premises used as prostitution. Moreover, offences designed to outlaw “pimping” (also see below) mean that sex workers cannot hire third-parties, such as bodyguards or receptionists, to assist in their work.

Under section 15 of the Act it is an offence to provide sex work to a child under the age of 18 years old. This offence carries a maximum penalty of 9 months imprisonment.

Furthermore, section 14 of the Act makes it an offence to ‘act as a prostitute’ if you have a serious criminal history related to drug trafficking or other serious criminal offences. This offence carries a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment.


Offences related to brothel-keeping in Western Australia

A ‘brothel’ refers to a premises from which sex work is provided. Brothel operators take a percentage of sex worker earnings for services provided on the premises. Under section 190(1) of the WA Criminal Code, it is an offence to:

  • Keep or manage, or act, or assist in the management of any premises for purposes of prostitution; or
  • Be the tenant, lessee, or occupier of any premises, permits such premises, or any part thereof, to be used for purposes of prostitution; or
  • Be the lessor or landlord of any premises, or the agent of such lessor or landlord, lets the same, or any part thereof, or collects the rent with the knowledge that such premises, or some part thereof, are or is to be used for purposes of prostitution, or is a party to the continued use of such premises, or any part thereof, for purposes of prostitution.

This offence effectively criminalises brothel-keeping in Western Australia.  

The offence carries a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment (if pursued as an indictable offence) or 12 months imprisonment and a fine of $12,000 (if pursued as a summary offence).


Offences related to street-based sex work in Western Australia

Street-based sex work occurs when sex workers meet clients in a public place.

Street-based sex workers and their clients are often at risk of being charged with ‘solicitation’ – an offence encompassing the seeking or asking for sexual services in a public place.

Section 6 of the Prostitution Act 2000 (WA) outlines a solicitation offence criminalising prostitutes who seek another person to be a client in, or in the view, or within hearing, of a public place. This offence carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment (if the client solicited was a child) or imprisonment for one year (in all other cases).

On the flip side, section 5 of the Act outlines an offence to seek a prostitute as a client in, or in the view, or within hearing, of a public place. This offence carries a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment (if the ‘prostitute’ solicited was a child) or two years imprisonment (in all other cases).

For the purpose of these offences, a ‘public place’ means:

  • Any place to which the public, or any section of the public, have or are permitted to have access whether on payment or otherwise; or
  • A school, university or other place of education, other than a part of it to which neither students nor the public usually have access; or
  • A privately owned place that is unoccupied or is occupied by a person who is not the owner and does not have the authority of the owner.


Offences related to ‘pimping’ in Western Australia

A ‘pimp’ is a person who procures others to engage in sex work and takes a percentage of their earnings. A number of criminal offences in WA are designed to deter third-party involvement in sex work activities.

Under section 191 of the WA Criminal Code a person commits an offence if they procure:

  • A girl or woman who is under the age of 21 years, and is not a common prostitute or of known immoral character to have unlawful carnal connection with a man, either in Western Australia or elsewhere; or
  • A woman or girl to become a common prostitute either in Western Australia or elsewhere; or
  • A woman or girl to leave Western Australia, with the intent that she may become an inmate of a brothel, elsewhere; or
  • A woman or girl to leave her usual place of abode in Western Australia, such place not being a brothel, with the intent that she may, for the purposes of prostitution, become an inmate of a brothel, either in Western Australia or elsewhere; or
  • A man or boy for any of the above purposes.

This offence carries a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment. It is not a defence to this offence that the sex worker involved consented to the behaviour.

A broader offence is outlined under section 190(3) of the Code if a person ‘lives wholly or partly on earnings that the person knows are the earnings of prostitution’. This offence carries a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment (if pursued as an indictable offence) or 12 months imprisonment and a fine of $12,000 (if pursued as a summary offence).

For the purposes of this offence, a person is taken to be living on earnings of prostitution if they live with, or are habitually in the company of a prostitute, and have no visible means of subsistence.

Finally, section 7 of the Prostitution Act 2000 outlines an offence for inducing a person to act as a prostitute through coercive means including:

This offence carries a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment (if pursued as an indictable offence) or three years imprisonment (if pursued as a summary offence).

Offences related to child involvement in prostitution in Western Australia

Unsurprisingly, many criminal offences in WA are focused on deterring child involvement in prostitution.

Under section 14 of the Prostitution Act 2000 (WA) it is an offence for a child to act as a prostitute, carrying a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment. Under section 19 of the Act, it is an offence for a child to seek the services of a prostitute, carrying a maximum penalty of a fine of $6,000.

Several other discrete offences are outlined under the Act encompassing individuals who involve children in prostitution including offences for:

  • Causing, permitting, or seeking to induce a child to act as a prostitute under section 16 of the Act.
  • Obtaining payment for prostitution by a child under section 17 of the Act.
  • Entering into an agreement for the prostitution of a child under section 18 of the Act.

These offences each carry a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.

Finally, a number of offences apply to children being on premises related to prostitution including:

  • Taking part in acts of prostitution (as a worker or a client) at a place where the person knows that a child is present under section 20 of the Act.
  • Allowing a child to enter or remain at a place where the person knows prostitution is taking place under section 21 of the Act.

These offences each carry a maximum penalty of a fine of $25,000 (for a first offence) or imprisonment for two years (for any subsequent offence).

Offences related to sex trafficking in Western Australia

Finally, a number of federal offences apply in relation to sex trafficking into or out of Western Australia. Sex trafficking refers to the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people for sexual exploitation through force, fraud or deception.

Various offences are outlined under section 271.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) relating to the trafficking of persons into the country for sexual purposes.

It is an offence to organise or facilitate the entry (section 272.2(2)) or exit (section 271.2(2A)) of a person whilst deceiving the person that they are being moved for the provision of sexual services.

It is also an offence to organise or facilitate the entry (section 272.2(2B)) or exit (section 271.2(2C)) of a person whilst deceiving the person about:

  • The nature of the sexual services to be provided; or
  • The extent to which the other person will be free to leave the place or area where the other person provides sexual services; or
  • The extent to which the other person will be free to cease providing sexual services; or
  • The extent to which the other person will be free to leave his or her place of residence; or
  • If there is a debt owed or claimed to be owed by the other person in connection with the arrangement for the other person to provide sexual services–the quantum, or the existence, of the debt owed or claimed to be owed.

Each of the offences above carries a maximum penalty of 12 years imprisonment.


Need Legal Advice?

Andrew Williams is an experienced Criminal Lawyer and Barrister who can provide you with expert legal advice pertaining to sex-related offences in WA.

Andrew offers a range of criminal law and traffic law services in PerthFremantle and all across Western Australia. He has the experience to guide you through your legal matter whilst working towards achieving the best outcome for your case.

Call Now: (08) 9278 2575

This post is informative only. It is not legal advice. If you have a specific legal matter you’d like to discuss, please contact us.

PLEASE NOTE: The material in this blog post is for informational use only and should not be construed as legal advice. For answers to your questions regarding this or other topics, please contact a professional legal representative.

Contact our lawyers now

At Andrew Williams Criminal Law we're here to help you with the best legal advice.

Testimonials Hear from our valued Clients

Words cannot express my gratitude for Andrew agreeing to take my case on, commit to returning from annual leave early, and the personal support and legal expertise provided in defending the driving charges made against me.

The delays I experienced by the two adjournments, while prolonging my anxiety and reducing my faith that I would receive a favourable outcome, worked very much in my favour but moreover it was the multiple submissions and arguments that Andrew made at law on my behalf that cemented the somewhat miraculous outcome including two spent convictions.

Though I genuinely never for a second doubted Andrew's skills, experience and abilities, my fate felt somewhat pre-determined given the significant impact sustained by the complainant.

Andrew was kind, non judgmental, clearly experienced and committed and he accommodated my anxieties and emotion surrounding the charges laid against me.

Andrew went out of his way to give me the best chance possible for a favourable outcome that, in the end, the Magistrate considered and responded accordingly.

All in all, I could not have dreamt of a better outcome considering the circumstances and I...

Rel M
Rel M

I had Andrew deal with my case recently and couldn't of been happier with the result he got for me. From the start Andrew was quick to reply to any questions and queries I had regarding my matter. He was very professional in my opinion, very easy to talk to and explained things quite well. I felt very comfortable in the courtroom knowing that Andrew wanted to get the best result he could for me, and I would highly recommend Andrew Williams to anyone who needs a criminal lawyer.


Colin W

I was on a very tight rope where, if it balanced the wrong way, it would have totally devastated my life. Andrew was honest through the entire process preparing me for the worst but never let me give up and thankfully with his help got a great outcome that let me move forward with my family. I cant praise Andrew enough and recommend him 100%.


Jason M

I cannot thank Andrew enough for his support and would not hesitate recommending your service to anyone who would need your help. I am eternally grateful to Andrew Williams who kept me informed as and when he had to and had no doubt in his professionalism. Thank you.


Pamela J
Pamela J

Had Andrew defend a reckless driving charge. He gave good solid advice throughout the process and defended me well at the trial. His costs were affordable and he was a great guy in general. The most important thing is we were able to have the charges dismissed via a not guilty verdict. I would recommend him to anyone.


Joly M
Joly M

Andrew represented me recently in a few difficult situations. I found him to be very professional, easily contactable and generally wanting a good outcome for me. I've passed his contact info to friends and if I ever need legal representation again I'll definitely be using his services.


Ryan B
Ryan B

After making several calls to various law firms, I came across Andrew Williams who was quick to respond providing knowledgeable, honest and friendly legal advice. At all times I felt confident in Andrew's ability to defend the charges. The case went to trial with an outcome of not guilty. I was awarded full legal costs. Could not be happier.


Matt K
Matt K

Andrew was fantastic to deal with. His courtroom demeanor and skills were apparent. He was always able to assist with a complex matter across nearly 3 years in rural WA. Would highly recommend his services.


Wesley H
Wesley H

Of my limited experiences in the judicial system, I can’t rate Andrew Williams highly enough. He was fantastic on my day in court and was very straight up during my consultations. He is such an awesome person, and the best professional criminal lawyer I have ever encounter. Need help call Andrew.


Aaron J

Andrew was brilliant with my case and achieved the best outcome. He was very professional and was very impressive in the submissions he presented to the magistrate. Again, I can't thank you enough Andrew.


Danni H

Andrew was very preffesional and welcoming when dealing with my case.

In the court room I felt at ease knowing andrew was representing me.

I would highly reccomend andrew for everyone no matter how big or small the case is!



Thanks a lot for handling my case and getting the pleasant outcome. Since the first time I talked to you I have known that my case was in a capable hands. I am impressed by your knowledge and confidence which gave me confidence. Cheers.


Joe Y

Thank you so much Andrew for grooming me and going over the process over and again. It was a traumatic time for me and you kept me focused. I really appreciate your guidance and we came out with the best result.

I wouldn't of been able to hold up as I did if not for your valued support.

Sincerely, Kyley.


Kyley S

Andrew was very approachable, knowledgeable, professional and focused on the best outcome. I would always recommend him.


Kieran C

My personal experience with Andrew Williams was a pleasant one from day one. In the midst of a police raid and the inability to find legal representation I considered myself done for when Andrew took the time to call me back after I contacted his office (during which time he was in trial). Upon soliciting some legal advice, Andrew was straight with me and I made an appointment with him in which he clearly explained the seriousness of my case. After some time, when the matter was moved to the District Courts I was well aware that I would likely be looking at some jail time; the nature of the legal systems and the way in which bureaucracy works is an extremely draining and mentally exhausting process. However, Andrew kept me well informed at every step of the way and promptly wrote to prosecution at critical points outlining my circumstances.

Moving forward, on the sentence hearing day, a pivotal point of my life occured when I was given no immediate imprisonement and was offered an opportunity before the Judge, being legally represented by Andrew. At no one point did I feel like I was being fooled or not taken care of, Andrew Williams was honest and professional, however harsh and difficult it was to accept my circumstances at times. In ...

Franciosco R

I was charged with the offence of aggravated common assault. I engaged Andrew Williams to act for me.

From the first time I met Andrew I knew that I was in the right hands. His level of professionalism both in and out of the court room was very impressive. Following a two day trial in the Perth Magistrates Court, I was found not guilty.

Andrew Williams assisted me through a very stressful period and I was extremely happy with the outcome. I would certainly recommend Andrew Williams to anybody that found themselves on the wrong side of the law.


Kyran H

My wife and I were so glad that we chose Andrew Williams to handle our sons Reckless Driving charge. What a relief to know we have people like him around to help.

Besides a failure to indicate and cutting the corner of a very sharp S bend in the road all other allegations by Police were not substantiated. After using a previous Law firm that basically told us that it was the 2 Police Officers word against our son and that we were probably better to take the charge of Dangerous Driving that had been offered by Police for a plea of guilty. $2500 later we decided to find someone else that at least believed our sons version of events.

Well, Andrew was that person; he understood exactly what was going on. He advised us of all avenues available to us and recommended the assistance of a very professional crash expert who provided quality photographs and measurements of the area involved.

Well if not for the professional and well thought out approach that Andrew used in this instance our son would have been unfairly charged with reckless driving for a very minor traffic offence. All costs were awarded to us by the Court and all I can say is...

George M

I have nothing but good things to say about Andrew and his law services. He helped me more than I could possibly ask for during a difficult time facing the court. He was very efficient and precise and always happy to help and answer questions even last minute and after hours.

I believe he charges a very fair price considering the amount of work he put in for me to achieve the best possible result in court and keeping me updated regularly through the whole process.

Without a doubt I will be recommending Andrew to all of my friends for future reference.


Trent W

I trusted that Andrew was the person to defend my case in our initial contact on the phone. He was very confident in his approach, from the first point of contact to the court room. I believe this must be from years of experience. Another added bonus for Andrew is that he is very honest and fair. He tells you like it is in the book of law and does not appear manipulative. His communication skills helped me help him to form a best defensive argument for my case. In other words, he made me comfortable to open up to him. In the end, he was able to convince the judge to let me off with only warning for providing misleading information to the police officer, which can be recorded as a criminal record against your name for 10 years.


Abraham A

Unhappy with my then representation, I went searching for a new criminal lawyer. Andrew responded quickly and professionally to my enquiry. It was quickly apparent during the first meeting that Andrew was knowledgeable, honest and was committed to getting us the best possible outcome. Andrew looked at all avenues available to me in a Magistrates Court matter. He negotiated on my behalf with the prosecution, attended 3 court hearings and defended my plea at a sentencing hearing. Andrew presented strong arguments in my defense and I was very pleased with a successful outcome. Andrew was also transparent and reasonable with his capped fee costing structure.


Timothy R

After being charged with Common Assault of a minor I made a sensible decision not to use the local Kununurra law firm. I engaged Andrew Williams to assist me with resolving this matter (to the point of me being awarded costs). Despite being 4000km away I never had any issues with Andrew's commitment to my case. He promptly returned all calls and demanded I do likewise when important information needed to be exchanged. I found him to be an intelligent, straight-talking and knowledgeable legal counsel. I have no hesitation in recommending this likeable and professional lawyer to those that require legal representation. Especially those that reside in regional or remote areas where there is no choice.


David C

Andrew Williams is a criminal laywer of much dedication I will never have the words of gratitude and admiration for his honesty and integrity I would highly recommend him to anyone who may require his services in the future


Helen M

I just wanted to take my time to explain my experience with Andrew Williams. I had an incident that could have really affected my future. As anyone does I called around all the lawyers in Perth and just not any lawyer but the ones who are highly respected amongst other lawyers and get the results. I have a friend who works in the industry and she recommended Andrew. She said she always sees Andrew in the paper with amazing outcomes to cases that he gets for his clients I first called his office and left a message with the receptionist. At the time he was on leave and it was his wife birthday. He promised her he wouldn't be bothered with work (this was at christmas time as well) he made the effort and called me to see if I was okay and how everything was. From that moment on I knew I had found my criminal lawyer. When you are going to court you want someone who is going to care about you and go the extra mile and not just pay you off. From the whole experience he was straight with me and very honest. My case was not an easy one and it could have been a very bad outcome. Andrew went out of his way to get me what I wanted. Throughout the whole process I felt like I was dealing with a friend. He was very professional and got the outcome I wanted. I really couldn't ...

Phillip C

Very happy with my representation and fair fees by Andrew, I highly recommend him.


Damian A

I found dealing with Andrew Williams Law Firms to be quite pleasant and professional. I have nothing but utmost regard for this firm and would recommend anyone who needs a good criminal lawyer.


Andrew H

If you want to get the best lawyer money can buy and get results? Look no further than Andrew Williams and get him in your corner. Not only is he a great guy I found his legal services very professional and knowledgeable and his attention to detail was faultless. This was a very tumultuous time in my life I was facing two criminal charges and my anxiety and stress levels were through the roof, but thanks to Andrew's cool calm and confident demeanor he was able to walk me through it and keep me focused every step of the way. I was acquitted in both cases thanks to Andrew. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you again Andrew you did a fantastic job. My advice to anyone facing Criminal charges would be to phone Andrew as soon as possible.


Dan G

Go to top