Outcome of GSOC Investigation

This week Ireland’s Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, confirmed yet again that she has no plans to decriminalise persons who sell sex.

The laws that criminalise sex workers in Ireland create conditions where it is all too easy for people to abuse sex workers. We know this abuse is going on. In the last year sex workers have reported 691 criminal incidents to UglyMugs.ie (603 in the Republic of Ireland and 88 in Northern Ireland).

The main way sex workers are criminalised in Ireland is via the “brothel keeping” laws which are perversely used to prosecute sex workers. Not only do these laws prevent sex worker victims of crime accessing justice, they also give the Gardaí (police) huge power over sex workers, power that can be abused.

In December 2012 it was reported in the media that a sex worker had complained to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) that she had been raped by a garda officer following a so called “brothel raid”. This was incidentally the first time a garda officer had ever been arrested by GSOC. Since December 2012 there appears to have been no further news of this case. But I made a request to GSOC for a summary of the case in December 2014 and yesterday I received the following:

Background

A woman made a complaint to the Garda Ombudsman alleging rape by a member of the Garda Síochána. A second woman made a complaint as a direct witness of the alleged behaviour.

A criminal investigation was undertaken by a Garda Ombudsman investigator* and the file was referred to the DPP. No prosecution was directed.
A disciplinary case** with regard to possible abuse of authority, corrupt or improper practice and discreditable conduct was subsequently opened by the Garda Ombudsman.

Action Taken

The investigation, carried out by a GSOC senior investigating officer, involved taking statements from the two women and from the garda concerned. The first complainant’s statement said that she felt compelled to have sexual intercourse with the garda concerned because he was a member of An Garda Síochána involved in a prosecution which led to her conviction for an offence under s.11 of the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Act 1993 and she feared further prosecution. Evidence showed that the garda had been involved in the prosecution of the two women. The garda’s statement said that the sexual intercourse had occurred subsequent to the arrest, but that it was consensual. The records of duty relevant to the garda were contradictory as regards his actual hours of duty, so it was unclear whether he was on- or off-duty at the time of the act.

Outcome

A report summarising the above findings of the investigation and making a recommendation was issued to Garda Authorities. A breach of discipline was found by Garda Authorities and a sanction applied.

*Pursuant to s.98 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005.
**Pursuant to s.95 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005.

This is I think an outrageous outcome. The garda officer got a slap on the wrist from his bosses. The woman was prosecuted and convicted of brothel keeping. There is no justice here.

Some similar cases have been reported in the UK in recent years, but all with very different outcomes. For example the 2012 case of PC Jasbir Dhanda in Derby, England. His shame is public. He was prosecuted and jailed for 2 and a half years. He lost his job of course. He also lost 40% of his pension.

Is it any surprise in the circumstances that exist in Ireland that many sex workers are being targeted by criminals and few feel able to seek justice when they are a victim of crime?

REACH – What is it?

REACH advert in Belfast Central Station

Last week many sex workers learnt for the first time of REACH, what appeared to be a new support organisation for sex workers in Ireland. REACH isn’t actually new, but it only came to mass attention last week when it launched a new high profile all island advertising campaign.

I first heard of REACH a year ago. I wrote to the EU in March 2014 requesting information about the project. However the EU replied that they had no record of REACH. Last month I wrote to the EU again, asking them to check their records once more, and today I received a reply confirming that they did award the REACH project a grant of €284.302 in November 2013. The EU say the REACH project began in December 2013 and is set to last 2 years. The beneficiaries are the Irish Department of Justice and Equality and Ruhama. Associate partners are the Northern Irish Department of Justice and the Irish Health Service Executive and Child and Family Support Agency.

I’ve spoken to a number of sex workers about REACH since the REACH advertising campaign launched.

One sex worker told me she contacted REACH seeking assistance last week by email. Yesterday she got a reply by email stating that she’d need to telephone instead. Another sex worker who contacted REACH last week told me she did get a swifter response. She’d asked for help re housing, problems she was having with her landlord. However the response she got offered no help, just a suggestion that she contact a housing charity instead. Another sex worker who asked about safety support got a response suggesting she visit the REACH or Ruhama websites, and, very surprisingly to me, it was also suggested she visit UglyMugs.ie. I’ve never before had a sex worker tell me Ruhama has recommended UglyMugs.ie to her, but that is what she reported to me. A further sex worker told me she was just advised to read the REACH and Ruhama websites for advice.

The above four sex workers all contacted REACH in the Republic of Ireland. Sex workers in Northern Ireland told me that it was actually impossible to contact REACH in Northern Ireland, both the phone number and email address did not work. I checked the phone number myself and asked others to check it too and can confirm texting REACH to 0808 802 1414 does not work, this phone number is set up to reject all SMS messages.

So what is REACH? It doesn’t appear to be able to offer any support to sex workers North or South. It seems it is just yet more public money into the coffers of anti sex work campaigners. I expect most of the €284.302 is going to Ireland's greediest anti sex work organisation of them all, Ruhama.

Prostitution Policy of UK Police Forces

In December 2014 / January 2015 all UK police forces were asked under FOI:
(a) Is your force following the 2011 ACPO Strategy & Supporting Operational Guidance for Policing Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation and the Home Office's 2011 A Review of Effective Practice in Responding to Prostitution.
(b) Do you have any policy document(s) on adult prostitution, and if so could you please provide copies?

The following table outlines the responses of all UK police forces:

Police ForceFollowing ACPO / Home Office Guidance?Force Policy Documents?Link to FOI
Avon and Somerset ConstabularyNot a clear yesNoFOI
Bedfordshire PoliceYesNoFOI
Cambridgeshire ConstabularyYesNoFOI
Cheshire ConstabularyYesNoFOI
City of London PoliceNoNoFOI
Cleveland PoliceYesNoFOI
Cumbria ConstabularyYesNoFOI
Derbyshire ConstabularyYesNoFOI
Devon & Cornwall PoliceNo answerNoFOI
Dorset PoliceYesNoFOI
Durham ConstabularyYesNoFOI
Dyfed-Powys PoliceYesNoFOI
Essex PoliceRefused to answerNoFOI
Gloucestershire ConstabularyYesNoFOI
Greater Manchester PoliceNo answer givenYes, link to force policy and link to additional brothel visit guidance.FOI
Gwent PoliceNot a clear yesNoFOI
Hampshire ConstabularyYesNoFOI
Hertfordshire ConstabularyNot a clear yesNoFOI
Humberside PoliceYesYes, link to force policyFOI
Kent PoliceNot a clear yesNoFOI
Lancashire ConstabularyNo answerYes, link to force policyFOI
Leicestershire PoliceYesYes, link to force policyFOI
Lincolnshire PoliceYesNoFOI
Merseyside PoliceYesYes, but declined to supply a copy.FOI
Metropolitan Police ServiceRefused to answerFOI
Norfolk ConstabularyNot a clear yesYes, link to force policyFOI
North Wales PoliceYesNoFOI
North Yorkshire PoliceYesYes, but refused to supply a copy.FOI
Northamptonshire PoliceYesNoFOI
Northumbria PoliceYesYes, link to force policyFOI
Nottinghamshire PoliceYesNoFOI
Police ScotlandNoNoFOI
Police Service of Northern IrelandNot a clear yesNoFOI
South Wales PoliceYesYes, link to force policyFOI
South Yorkshire PoliceYesYes, link to force policyFOI
Staffordshire PoliceYesNoFOI
Suffolk ConstabularyYesYes, link to force policyFOI
Surrey PoliceYesYes, link to force policyFOI
Sussex PoliceYesYes, link to force policyFOI
Thames Valley PoliceNot a clear yesNoFOI
Warwickshire PoliceYesNoFOI
West Mercia PoliceYesNoFOI
West Midlands PoliceNot a clear yesNoFOI
West Yorkshire PoliceYesYes, link to force policyFOI
Wiltshire PoliceYesNoFOI

CSO Prostitution Statistics 2003-2012

Republic of Ireland crime statistics. Data provided by the CSO (Central Statistics Office) on 04/12/14 in response to a PQ (Parliamentary Question) by Joan Collins TD. FAQ about CSO recorded crime statistics available here.

Incidents of offences recorded, detected, with relevant proceedings and court outcomes 2003-2012

Brothel keeping

 RecordedDetectedWith relevant proceedingsCourt proceedings commencedConvictionPendingNon-conviction
20036321100
20045311100
20058411100
2006131032200
2007141077520
20082924107511
2009262418181035
2010675932282143
2011574823231454
2012695624237511

Organisation of prostitution

 RecordedDetectedWith relevant proceedingsCourt proceedings commencedConvictionPendingNon-conviction
200312211510093562611
200425241613832
200519191313643
200616151513832
2007332420201703
200811965302
20097766303
20103333300
201114866411
20123100000

Prostitution, including soliciting etc.

 RecordedDetectedWith relevant proceedingsCourt proceedings commencedConvictionPendingNon-conviction
20036159555435154
2004189183172161945017
20055852413519106
20067772534834104
2007625950453339
20089690777254612
20096056454518324
2010135116928927755
201115714812211836874
20127667545210438

Press Release: International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, Northern Ireland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 16, 2014

NORTHERN IRISH SEX WORKERS MARK INTERNATIONAL DAY TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST SEX WORKERS

LAW CRIMINALISING PURCHASE OF SEX WILL COME INTO FORCE NEXT YEAR

PSNI ASKED TO ADOPT NEW SEX WORK POLICING STRATEGY

On Wednesday December 17th 2014 Northern Irish sex workers and their allies will stand in solidarity with sex workers in the Republic of Ireland and around the world to call for an end to violence against sex workers. The 17th December is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, a day to call attention to the hate crimes committed against sex workers, and the need to remove the stigma and criminalisation that contributes to violence against sex workers.

Solidarity Federation Belfast Local and the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland have arranged a demonstration at 5pm at Belfast City Hall and are calling on Stormont to scrap Clause 15 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, which criminalises the purchase of sex, and will come into force on 1st June 2015. This law was passed despite independent research commissioned by the Department of Justice showing only 2% of sex workers supported criminalisation of clients and 61% of sex workers thought it would make them less safe.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK not to have rejected legislation criminalising the purchase of sex. There is great concern that the result of Clause 15 will be sex work driven further underground and increased violence against sex workers. Despite promises of decriminalisation, sex workers will remain liable to be prosecuted for brothel keeping if they do not work alone.

So far this year Northern Ireland based sex workers have reported 179 incidents of abuse to UglyMugs.ie. 69 of these incidents were deemed to be crimes and include assaults, exploitation, fraud, harassment, impersonating police, robberies, sexual assaults, threatening behaviour and vandalism. 20 of these criminal incidents involved physical violence against the sex worker. Only 5 (7.2%) of these 69 crime incidents were also reported to the PSNI.

Lucy Smith of UglyMugs.ie said “It is vital that the PSNI now improve their response to crime against sex workers. The ‘Merseyside Model’ of treating crimes against sex workers as hate crimes and providing sex work liaison officers, as recommended by ACPO, should be adopted immediately.”

“In regard to enforcement the PSNI must now adopt a strategy that prioritises sex worker safety. Clause 15 has created a situation where the PSNI are now compelled to look again at their policing around sex work. We hope there will be engagement with sex workers on these issues shortly.”

Sex workers, supporters and media welcome outside Belfast City Hall 5-6pm, Wednesday December 17th 2014. Masks will be available for privacy if desired.

ENDS

For further information, please contact:
Lucy Smith, UglyMugs.ie
info@uglymugs.ie / www.uglymugs.ie

Update on NI Legislation for sex workers

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice

For sex workers wondering what happened in NI today, the Further Consideration Stage of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill took place.

The purchase of sex is set to be criminalised by this Bill. We learnt that in October. The Clause criminalising the purchase of sex was previously known as "Clause 6" but it is now "Clause 15".

We learnt today that Clause 15 is set to come into effect on 1st June 2015. That means from 1st June 2015 persons buying sexual services will be committing a criminal offence.

This Bill will only criminalise 'sexual services' where the buyer is physically in the presence of the seller, i.e. it will not criminalise the buying of remote services like phone sex or webcam sex.

'Sexual services' are described in this Bill as sexual touching, either you - the sex worker - sexually touching the client or the client sexually touching you.

A new amendment was passed today which will criminalise the purchase of a person sexually touching themselves in the purchaser's presence. The purchase of services like lap dancing and stripping could also be criminal following this amendment. There are currently differing legal opinions on whether this amendment will criminalise the purchase of services like lap dancing and stripping.

Unfortunately there were no amendments put forward to remove the brothel laws sometimes used to criminalise sex workers.

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, Belfast & Dublin, 17th December 2014

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, Belfast

December 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This annual event was first marked in 2003 by the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA. Since then sex workers and allies around the world have come together on this date to call attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers, and the need to remove the stigma and criminalisation that contributes to violence against sex workers.

This year there will be events in Belfast and Dublin to mark International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

The Belfast event is to be held at 5pm on 17th December 2014 at Belfast City Hall. This demonstration has been called by the Solidarity Federation Belfast Local and Sex Workers Alliance Ireland. The Facebook event page is here.

The Dublin event is to be held at 6pm on 17th December 2014 at the Dáil. This vigil has been called by the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland. The Facebook event page is here.

More sex workers being sent to prison since TORL campaign

Sex workers are increasingly being sent to prison in the Republic of Ireland since the launch of the Turn Off the Red Light (TORL) campaign to further criminalise sex work in 2011.

In 2011 the now disbanded TORL opposition campaign, Turn Off the Blue Light (TOBL), carried out research which found that the brothel keeping laws were being used almost exclusively to criminalise sex workers, rather than the owners or managers of brothels. TOBL identified 55 persons convicted of brothel keeping offences from 2008 – 2011 (to 27 July) via media reports and found that 91% appeared to be sex workers, not owners or managers of brothels who had sex workers working for them. Further 93% were women and 98% were non nationals.

Looking at the punishments given to the 55 persons convicted of brothel keeping in the TOBL study, only three persons received jail sentences that were not suspended, and, only one of these was a sex worker who had no other sex workers working for him/her. That was the 2010 case of 35 year old Romanian woman, F.P., who was jailed for 3 months by a judge in Monaghan after she could not find the €1,000 bail surety which would have resulted in her receiving a suspended sentence. The Irish Independent reported at the time that F.P. asked the judge: “Who is going to look after my nine-year-old child?” to which he replied “That is not my problem.”

In the three years since the TOBL research was published the number of sex workers being sent to prison for brothel keeping offences appears to have increased significantly. Media research identifies five further cases of sex workers, who appeared to have no other sex workers working for them, jailed for brothel keeping, as follows:

Galway, March 2012: M.C., Romanian, female, age 34, sentenced to three months in prison

Kildare, December 2012: R.D.S.O., female, age 28 and K.C.S., female, age 57, both sentenced to four months in prison

Leitrim, September 2013: E.C., Romanian, female and D.H., Romanian, female, both sentenced to four months in prison

TORL organisations often financially profit from the criminalisation of sex workers. For example in the Leitrim case above the judge ordered that the money seized from the two sex workers he jailed be donated to Ruhama.

Additionally sex workers who appear to have no other sex workers working for them are being sent to jail under other laws. In February 2013 the Clare People reported on a case of two Romanian women jailed for 10 weeks each for knowingly living in whole or in part on the earnings of the prostitution of another person and aiding and abetting that prostitution. The women's solicitor said they had co-operated completely with the gardaí and had only become involved in prostitution in order to get money to send home to their families who lived in “dire poverty” in Romania. The judge accepted they were not part of a criminal organisation, but clearly this did not deter him from jailing them.

Although TORL frequently puts out the soundbite that it wants to “criminalise the buyer and decriminalise the seller” in reality TORL has only ever sought to ensure that the laws used to criminalise indoor sex workers remain in place.