435. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to introduce legislation to tackle sex-trafficking; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34472/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): On 23 September, I published the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015, as approved by Government. The Bill provides for two new offences of purchasing sexual services, in the context of prostitution. The purpose of these offences is to target the demand for prostitution. The first is a general offence of paying to engage in sexual activity with a prostitute which carries a penalty of a fine of up to €500 for a first offence and fines of up to €1000 for a second or subsequent offence. The second is the more serious offence of paying for sexual activity with a trafficked person, in the context of prostitution, and carries a potential penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine. In both cases, the person selling the sexual service will not commit an offence.
These proposals have been developed following extensive consultation, initiated by my Department, dating back to 2012. The new offences also implement the recommendation of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence which called for the introduction of an offence criminalising the purchase of sexual services.
The Bill is expected to be considered in the Houses during the Autumn session.
I would also draw the Deputy's attention to the existing legislative provisions addressing the trafficking of persons for the purpose of exploitation (including sexual exploitation) which can attract significant penalties. Under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, any person found guilty of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation shall be liable to imprisonment for a period up to life. It is also an offence for a person to solicit or importune a trafficked person for the purposes of prostitution with a potential penalty of imprisonment for up to 5 years. Question No. 436 answered with Question No. 428.