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Question

335. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if, in so far as it falls within her remit, she has undertaken an impact analysis of reforming the present criminal penalties for prostitution towards adopting the models utilised in Sweden and Northern Ireland; if she is aware of the projected impact in terms of Garda Síochána resources which would be required to implement such a reform; if she has access to research on the enforceability of similar models used in other jurisdictions; if she will share the results of this research; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40554/15]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The purpose of the proposals to criminalise the purchase of sexual services contained in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 is primarily to target the trafficking and sexual exploitation of persons through prostitution. Both the European Parliament (February 2014) and the Council of Europe (March 2014) have recommended criminalising the purchase of sexual services as a tool in the fight against human trafficking.
Outside of those trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation through prostitution, there is wider exploitation of persons involved such as those coerced or otherwise forced, through circumstances, to engage in prostitution.
At a national level, the then Minister for Justice and Equality published a discussion document in June 2012 on the future direction of prostitution legislation. This included a review of legislative approaches in other jurisdictions. Following a conference hosted by the Department of Justice and Equality in October 2012, the discussion document was referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality which conducted a public consultation process. This included presentations from 26 organisations and individuals, including representatives of An Garda Síochána, and the receipt of over 800 written submissions.
In June 2013, the Committee published its report which recommended that an offence should be introduced penalising the purchase of sexual services from another person by means of prostitution while clarifying that no offence is committed by the person providing the sexual service. This recommendation was reiterated by the Committee in its report on domestic and sexual violence which was published in October 2014.
In terms of the use of Garda resources, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of personnel and other resources and such is kept under continual review in the context of policing priorities.
As already stated, the purpose of these provisions is to tackle the exploitation associated with prostitution. I am absolutely satisfied that it is the proper approach to adopt. Nonetheless, I accept that as a subject prostitution raises a wide spectrum of issues. I fully expect the proposals contained in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill to be substantially discussed during the course of the passage of this Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas.