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Question

390. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when she will publish the sexual offences Bill 2015 providing for criminalisation of the purchase of sex; and her plans to have it enacted. [13048/15]

392. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will provide an update on the general scheme of the criminal justice Bill (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13085/15]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I propose to take Questions Nos. 390 and 392 together.
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. When enacted, the Bill will facilitate full compliance with the criminal law provisions of a number of EU, UN and Council of Europe legal instruments. The Bill will also implement the recommendations of a number of Oireachtas committees, reform the law on incest and update the Sex Offenders Act 2001. 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.