333. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will publish legislation regarding ending sex trafficking and prostitution here before the term of the current Government ends; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2587/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): On 27 November, I published the General Scheme of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2014 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 proposals have been developed following extensive consultation, initiated by my Department, dating back to 2012 and which includes a recommendation from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence to introduce such an offence. I have met with representatives from both sides of the debate, including those working in the industry, and my Department has received numerous representations expressing views from both sides.
I am satisfied that it is necessary to take steps to tackle the trafficking and wider exploitation of persons through prostitution. Unlike the existing offences relating to prostitution such as soliciting, loitering or brothel keeping, the new offences will specifically target the demand for prostitution.
The Bill is priority legislation and is currently being drafted. It is my intention to publish the Bill later this year.