561. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Justice the number of successful prosecutions obtained under section 8 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 for the years of 2019, 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43891/21]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Among the changes introduced by Part 4 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, was a change in legislation which removed those who offer their services as a prostitute from the existing offences of soliciting.
This was done to give effect to the policy of providing additional protection to those involved in prostitution, especially for those that are particularly vulnerable and are victims of human trafficking. This is to ensure people working in prostitution can provide information to the Gardaí on, for example, violence towards them by clients, without risking prosecution for selling sexual services.
Section 8 of the 1993 Act provides for the offence of failing to comply with the direction of a member of An Garda Síochána to leave a street or public place where the Garda has reasonable cause to suspect the person is loitering in order to solicit or importune another person or other persons for the purposes of prostitution. On foot of the changes introduced by the 2017 Act, and consistent with the policy underlying it, An Garda Síochána no longer enforce section 8 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993.
As such I have been informed that there have been no prosecutions under section 8 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 for the period in question.
It may interest the Deputy to know that work is progressing to give effect to the initiative announced by Minister McEntee in April of this year to expunge previous convictions for ‘sale of sex’ or prostitution offences. This is a significant step in recognising and responding to the needs of victims of sex trafficking and those forced to provide sexual services.
While it has not been an offence to sell sex in Ireland since 2017, for those who have succeeded in exiting prostitution, previous convictions can be a significant obstacle as they attempt to move on with their lives.
The intention is that this proposed new expunging provision will be expressly limited to those convicted under section 7 or 8 of the Act of 1993 on the basis they were offering their services as a prostitute to another person.
At the time Minister McEntee announced this initiative, An Garda Síochána had identified 607 convictions to be expunged.
This comprises 402 convictions recorded for soliciting or importuning for the purposes of prostitution, contrary to section 7 and 205 convictions for loitering for the purposes of prostitution – failing to comply with a direction of a Garda, contrary to Section 8.