395. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there are any preparations for any possible impact in this State due to the change in the law in the North related to the selling of sex, which will be in effect from 1 June 2015; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18231/15]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): On 27 November, I published the General Scheme of a Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill which includes two new offences of purchasing, in the context of prostitution, sexual services.
The first is a general offence of purchasing sexual services 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 purchasing a sexual service from a trafficked person 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 be subject to an offence.
These new offences are comparable to those introduced in section 15 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 which the Deputy correctly states will come into force on 1 June.
The Bill is priority legislation and is currently being drafted. It is my intention to publish the Bill in the current parliamentary session.
As an additional means of combatting the exploitation which is associated with prostitution, these offences will target the demand side of prostitution. However, there are already legislative provisions addressing the trafficking of persons for the purposes of exploitation (including sexual exploitation) which can attract significant penalties. I would draw the Deputy's attention to the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 which prohibits trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Any person found guilty of such an offence shall be liable to imprisonment for life or a lesser term, and at the discretion of the court, to a fine. 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 and/or a fine.
I would also like to advise the Deputy of existing laws in the area of prostitution. Under section 6 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993, it is an offence to solicit in a street or public place for the purpose of prostitution. It is also an offence under the 1993 Act to organise prostitution, to knowingly live on the earnings of a prostitute or to keep or manage a brothel. In addition, public order legislation prohibits the advertising of brothels and prostitution. I am satisfied that these provisions are adequate to address any impacts to this State arising from upcoming reforms in other jurisdictions.