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10th June 2019 | Justice

Jail sentences for sex workers completely disproportionate – O’Gorman

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Green Party Justice spokesperson, Cllr Roderic O’Gorman, has criticised the sentencing of two women to jail terms of 9 months by Naas District Court. The women were charged under an offence of brothel-keeping, which applies when more than one prostitute works in the same location.

“This is a completely inappropriate use of the law. These women have been prosecuted under a provision of law designed to target people who are in charge of brothels and who control the profits. However, in this case, where two women worked together, probably to ensure each other’s safety, they have been prosecuted and now face jail time. Both are in their early to mid-twenties and one is pregnant. This is a completely disproportionate punishment for these two women,” stated Cllr. O’Gorman.

“When the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 was introduced, we were told that it represented a major change in how Irish law addressed prostitution, with the focus moving to prosecuting persons who pay for sex, rather than prostitutes themselves. However, this prosecution, part of the ongoing Operation Quest, shows that prostitutes still face the brunt of the law. Up to early April, only one person had been convicted under the new offence of paying for sex. His sentence: a €200 fine.”

“When the 2017 Act was introduced, the then Minister included a provision which allowed for an examination and report on how the law was operating, to happen within 3 years of it passing (S.27). I am calling on the Minister for Justice to bring forward this examination of the legislation to see if it is actually fit for purpose. The evidence to date suggests that people working as prostitutes are still the target of laws in this country,” concluded Cllr. O’Gorman.