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Prostitution in Northern Ireland

Prostitution in Northern Ireland is legal as elsewhere in the United Kingdom, subject to a number of restraints. These control a number of activities associated with prostitution such as soliciting, procuring, living on the proceeds of prostitution (pimping), exploitation of prostitutes, under age prostitution and keeping a brothel. Historically prostitution in Northern Ireland has been regulated by the same or similar laws to those in England and Wales. However devolution provides the opportunity for separate legislation.

Contents

  • Nature and extent 1
  • Research 2
  • Current laws 3
    • Soliciting 3.1
    • Exploitation 3.2
  • Proposals 4
  • Support services 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • External links 9

Nature and extent

As elsewhere, accurate figures for the extent of sex work in Northern Ireland are difficult to ascertain given the covert nature of the activities, although the police estimated 40-100 people were working in the sex trade in 2010. As in other countries street prostitution has declined in favour of off-street work.[1] As with much of Europe, there appears to be a fair amount of mobility of sex workers in and out of the territory, particularly in Belfast. While exact numbers are very hard to obtain, the 2014 research suggested between 300 and 350 people working on any particular day, the majority of whom were women, with the commonest age range being 25 - 30. The researchers found that under age workers were uncommon, and that most workers did not start till they were of legal age.[2]

Research

Despite the publicity given to the issue, there has been a paucity of research on sex work in Northern Ireland. The Department of Justice carried out its own research published in 2011,[1] and in 2013 commissioned a research study, which was carried out by the Queen's University Belfast, and released in October 2014 (Research into Prostitution in Northern Ireland).[2][3][4] The findings were dismissed by opponents of the Human Trafficking Bill, in particular Women's Aid[5][6] and the DUP.[7]

Current laws

The legal framework is governed by Part 5 (Ss. 58-64) of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 (S.I. 2008/1769 (N.I. 2)), as amended by the Policing and Crime Act 2009 (on 1 April 2010).[8] These create offences for loitering or soliciting in a street or public place for the purposes of prostitution (S. 59), soliciting from a motor vehicle (kerb crawling) (S. 60), organising, advertising or recruiting into prostitution for the purposes of gain (S. 62), controlling a prostitute (S. 63) or keeping a brothel (defined as more than one person selling sexual services in a given location) (S. 64).

Soliciting

The Policing and Crime Act 2009 (S. 20) replaced Ss 60-61 of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 dealing with soliciting by a new offence, S. 60 "Soliciting":[9]

(1) It is an offence for a person in a street or public place to solicit another (B) for the purpose of obtaining B's sexual services as a prostitute.
(2) The reference to a person in a street or public place includes a person in a vehicle in a street or public place.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under this Article shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

Exploitation

The Policing and Crime Act 2009 (S. 15) created a new offence [8] by amending the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 to include S. 64A "Paying for sexual services of a prostitute subjected to force etc.":[10]

(1)A person (A) commits an offence if—
(a)A makes or promises payment for the sexual services of a prostitute (B),
(b)a third person (C) has engaged in exploitative conduct of a kind likely to induce or encourage B to provide the sexual services for which A has made or promised payment, and
(c)C engaged in that conduct for or in the expectation of gain for C or another person (apart from A or B).

(2) The following are irrelevant—

(a) where in the world the sexual services are to be provided and whether those services are provided,.
(b) whether A is, or ought to be, aware that C has engaged in exploitative conduct.

(3) C engages in exploitative conduct if—

(a) C uses force, threats (whether or not relating to violence) or any other form of coercion, or.
(b) C practises any form of deception.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this Article shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

Proposals

In June 2013 Lord Morrow, DUP MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone and Minister for Social Development, introduced a private members bill in the Stormont, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill, to reform the regulation of prostitution in Northern Ireland.[11][12] Amongst the proposals (Clause 6) is making it an offence to purchase (but not sell) sex. However Justice Minister, David Ford who had earlier commissioned a study of the issue[13] has expressed his opposition to this, as have the police.[14][15] The commissioned research was carried out by Queen’s University Belfast.[16]

The Catholic Church has supported it,[17] as have some women's groups such as Women's Aid.[18] Since this resembles legislation enacted in Sweden a public debate on the merits of that law ensued,[19] in addition to discussion as to what the state of affairs in Northern Ireland actually is.[20] The Labour Party in Northern Ireland oppose the bill,[21] as do the Ulster Unionist Party while the DUP support it, leaving the balance of power to Sinn Féin, although it was expected they would support it.[22][23]

The Bill appears to have public support according to an October 2014 poll carried out by CARE.[5]

Paying for sexual services of a person 6.—(1) The Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 is amended as follows. (2) For Article 64A (Paying for sexual services of a prostitute subjected to force etc.) substitute⁠— “64A Paying for sexual services of a person (1) A person (A) commits an offence if A obtains sexual services from a person (B) over the age of 18 in exchange for payment⁠— (a) if the payment is made or promised by A; or (b) if the payment is made or promised by a third party. (2) Person A guilty of an offence under this article is liable⁠— (a) on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale; (b) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or both. (3) In paragraph (1), “payment” means any financial advantage, including the discharge of an obligation to pay or the provision of goods or services (including sexual services) gratuitously or at a discount. (4) For the avoidance of doubt, person B is not guilty of aiding, abetting or counselling the commission of an offence under this article. (5) Within the first year of this offence coming into effect, the Department must raise awareness of this offence. (6) The Department shall collect data to review the operation of this offence and report to the Assembly after this offence has been in effect for three years.”.

The Bill passed First Reading in June 2013, and Second Reading Sept 24 2013. Submissions closed on November 1, 2013. The committee reported on April 10, 2014, with members divided on clause 6. The Justice Department continued to be opposed to clause 6.[24][25][26] Amendments were anticipated and introduced in October 2014, with the final consideration debate on October 20. The vote on clause 6 was 91:10 to approve it.[27]

Support services

Belfast Commercial Sex Workers Service

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Research paper investigating the issues for women in Northern Ireland involved in prostitution and exploring best practice elsewhere. Department of Justice January 2011
  2. ^ a b Research into Prostitution in Northern Ireland. Queen's University Belfast October 2014
  3. ^ 17,000 use prostitutes in Northern Ireland each year, says new study. Belfast Telegraph Oct 17 2014
  4. ^ Researchers suggest 17,500 men pay for sex in NI each year BBC 17 October 2014
  5. ^ a b Vast majority back calls to make paying for sex illegal. Irish Mirror 17 Oct 2014
  6. ^ Women’s Aid slams ‘shocking’ DOJ prostitution report. NewsLetter 17 Oct 2014
  7. ^ David Ford in bid to scupper Bill making it illegal to pay for sex. Belfast Telegraph Oct 20 2014
  8. ^ a b The Policing and Crime Act 2009 (Commencement No. 4) Order 2010 (S.I. 2010/507 (C. 37)), article 5
  9. ^ Policing and Crime Act 2009 (S. 20)
  10. ^ Policing and Crime Act 2009 (S. 15)
  11. ^ Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill. Bill 26/11-15
  12. ^ New proposed prostitution law 'vital to tackle sex trafficking' in Northern Ireland. Belfast Telegraph Sept 23 2013
  13. ^ Justice Minister David Ford is to commission independent research into prostitution in order to inform future policy on the issue. Department of Justice Sept 5 2013
  14. ^ Prostitution law proposals slammed. Belfast Telegraph Sept 24 2013
  15. ^ Human Trafficking Bill: Lord Morrow criticises police comments. BBC Sept 23 2013
  16. ^ Research into Prostitution in Northern Ireland, Survey Monkey
  17. ^ Cardinal Brady’s letter to members of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly concerning the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill. Irish Catholic Bishop's Conference 8 October 2013
  18. ^ Human Trafficking Bill is a victory for women. Belfast Telegraph Oct 20 2014
  19. ^ Sweden's sex laws - do we really want them in Northern Ireland?. Belfast Telegraph Dec 9 2013
  20. ^ The sex trade in Northern Ireland: the creation of a moral panic? The Trafficking Research Project Sept 27 2013
  21. ^ Labour Party in Northern Ireland submission to NIA Justice Committee. 1 November 2013
  22. ^ Sinn Féin calls for Northern Ireland prostitution arrests stats. BBC 17 October 2014
  23. ^ SF amendments ‘will test DUP’ on slavery billNewsLetter 18 Oct 2014
  24. ^ Department of Justice letter to Committee for Justice. January 14 2014
  25. ^ Plans to reform Ulster prostitution laws are unworkable, says justice minister. Guardian 21 April 2014
  26. ^ Ireland: 98% of sex workers oppose new law criminalising clients. Guardian 17 October 2014
  27. ^ BBC 2014 October 2014

Bibliography

  • Let’s talk about sex work…in Northern Ireland. Helen McBride, Nursing Clio January 9 2014

External links

  • Northern Ireland Executive
    • Department of Justice
  • Northern Ireland Assembly
    • Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill. 26/11-15
    • Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill: Committee stage and submissions
    • Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill. Research and Information Service Paper. October 4 2013 507-13
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