A notice to the media

At this time UglyMugs.ie would like to remind the media that our ugly mug scheme is private and only available to sex workers.

The violation of the privacy of our ugly mug scheme by media who have gained access via posing as sex worker victims of crime or any other means is unacceptable.

Any disclosure of confidential sex worker only safety information by the media puts people selling sexual services in Ireland at risk and is highly irresponsible. UglyMugs.ie will take all action possible to prevent media violating the privacy of our ugly mug scheme.

The private pain of people selling sexual services who have been a victim of crime is not entertainment for the masses. It is unacceptable for any media to obtain ugly mug scheme data unethically and use it without the consent of UglyMugs.ie or the victims of crime.

Northern Ireland Consultation on ‘Leaving Prostitution’

The Northern Irish Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) recently issued a public consultation entitled ‘Leaving Prostitution: a strategy for help and support’.

This consultation is a result of Section 19 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 which requires the DHSSPS to publish a Strategy that will outline the actions to be taken to ensure that a Programme of Assistance and Support (PAS) is in place for people who wish to leave sex work.

The consultation consultation document and response questionnaire are available at:

The closing date for responses is Friday 23 October 2015.

UglyMugs.ie will be responding to this consultation in due course.

We are also publishing today a document entitled Submission to Department of Health which we sent to the DHSSPS on 20th April 2015. This was not in response to any consultation, rather we just wanted to make a brief submission to the DHSSPS with some of our initial concerns before they even issued a consultation.

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:


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.


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

Organisation of prostitution

 RecordedDetectedWith relevant proceedingsCourt proceedings commencedConvictionPendingNon-conviction

Prostitution, including soliciting etc.

 RecordedDetectedWith relevant proceedingsCourt proceedings commencedConvictionPendingNon-conviction

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

December 16, 2014




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.


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