103. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps she is taking to address the serious issues relating to prostitution and trafficking, as highlighted in the RTE "Prime Time" programme on 30 November 2015. [44429/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): In September, I published the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015. 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. These proposals have been developed following extensive consultation, and 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. This Bill builds on already strong legislative, administrative and operational measures that have been put in place in Ireland to combat and prevent trafficking in human beings. The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, with penalties of up to life imprisonment for human trafficking.
A key focus of Garda actions in this area is the link that exists between the organisation of prostitution and organised crime, including the trafficking of persons for the purpose of prostitution. An Garda Síochána has a dedicated unit established to target individuals engaged in organised prostitution. This unit works directly with the Human Trafficking Investigation and Coordination Unit in coordinating a response to tackle trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation. Gardai have had considerable success with these operations, disrupting criminal networks, including where prostitution was being organised. Gardai have also worked in partnership with police forces in other jurisdictions to target those involved in the sexual exploitation of women and girls, including the international trafficking of persons for the purpose of prostitution. There are a number of operations ongoing in the area of organised prostitution.
An Garda Síochána works with both Government and Non-Government agencies in tackling crimes of this nature, through a strategy of prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership. A coordinated and holistic approach is taken to training and joint training takes place twice yearly, between An Garda Síochána and Ruhama, for frontline members of An Garda Síochána and the PSNI. This training provides members with an insight into the complex needs of individuals engaged in prostitution. The Human Trafficking and Co-Ordination Unit also run a course ‘ Tackling Trafficking in Human Beings, Prevention, Protection and Prosecution" twice a year, for members of An Garda Síochána.
A draft Second National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Trafficking of Persons was issued for public consultation during the summer of this year; this consultation process was recently completed and it is anticipated that the new National Action Plan will be published in the coming months. The new National Action Plan will outline both the Government’s strategic approach to this issue as well as setting out a clear work programme for the relevant state authorities to collaborate with civil society and agencies in other jurisdictions in advancing the fight against trafficking and enhancing the protection of victims.