94. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 will be reviewed in view of the imprisonment of two sex workers, one pregnant, for working in a shared space under the charge of brothel keeping. [24646/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Deputy will understand that I am unable to comment on individual cases being adjudicated by the Courts.
In relation to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, Part 4 of the Act provides for two new offences of paying for sexual activity with a prostitute and paying for sexual activity with a trafficked person. The Act also removes those who offer their services as a prostitute from the existing offences of soliciting for the purpose of prostitution. One purpose of these measures is to provide additional protection to persons involved in prostitution, especially vulnerable persons and victims of human trafficking. This measure allows persons working in prostitution to provide information to the Gardaí on, for example, violence towards them by clients, without risking prosecution for selling sexual services.
The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 does not introduce a new offence of brothel-keeping. This offence has its basis in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993. The 2017 Act increased the penalty for brothel-keeping on summary conviction to a class A fine (€5,000) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both. Prior to amendment these penalties were €1,000 and 6 months, respectively. The penalty for conviction on indictment remained unchanged: a fine not exceeding £10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to both.
These measures and others introduced by Part 4 of the 2017 Act are part of the Government efforts to target the demand for prostitution and are reinforced through awareness-raising efforts and well-publicised Garda operations. As regards decriminalising the offence of brothel-keeping, there are concerns that this could create a loophole that could be open to abuse by criminal gangs and others who wish to profit from prostitution.
In relation to a review of the 2017 Act, Part 4 of the Act specifies that, not later than 3 years after its commencement, a Report will be prepared on the number of arrests and convictions in respect of the new offences, as well as an assessment of the impact on those who provide sexual services for payment.
Once the mechanism for the review has been finalised, the Department expects that concerns such as those raised by the Deputy will be considered, along with other submissions made.