485. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will support legislation in order to end sex-trafficking and prostitution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19980/15]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): On 27 November, I published the General Scheme of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill. The General Scheme includes wide ranging provisions to enhance the protection of children and vulnerable persons from sexual abuse and exploitation. In addition, the Bill will provide for 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. The new offences also implement the recommendation from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence which called for the introduction of an offence criminalising the purchase of sexual services.
The Bill is priority legislation and is currently being drafted, with a view to publication in this parliamentary session.