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:
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.
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.
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?