In July 2011 a report was published containing a media analysis of persons convicted of brothel keeping offences in the Republic of Ireland 2008 – 2011 (to 27 July). It identified 29 cases involving 55 persons and found that 91% of the people convicted were sex workers, not owners or managers of brothels who have others working for them. We reviewed that data and also carried out a fresh search of media reports of brothel keeping cases in the Republic of Ireland from 2008 - 2013.  In total we identified 141 brothel keepers, namely persons convicted of brothel keeping.  Here we publish a summary of our findings.  Full details of all of the 141 persons can be found here.

CSO Data Vs Media Analysis

CSO data provided to on 16/09/16 shows 118 persons so far having been convicted of brothel keeping from 2008 - 2013 and also gives us the gender and age range of these persons  Inline with CSO statistics, in our media analysis, we looked to the year of the offence, not the year of conviction (if different), and we counted as conviction cases that were proved and order made without conviction, Probation of Offenders Act.  A comparison of the CSO data and our media analysis looks like this:

 CSO DataMedia Analysis
20087 persons (1 male, 6 female)7 persons (0 male, 7 female)
200912 persons (1 male, 11 female)16 persons (2 male, 14 female)
201034 persons, (1 male, 33 female)29 persons (2 male, 27 female)
201134 persons, (6 male, 28 female)43 persons (4 male, 39 female)
201212 persons (2 male, 10 female)27 persons (3 male, 24 female)
201319 persons (2 male, 17 female)19 persons (0 male, 19 female)

Sex Worker Status & Profiting From Another Status

It is clear that most people convicted of brothel keeping in the Republic of Ireland are sex workers.

92.9% of the persons we identified appeared to be persons who were working as sex workers themselves.

90.8% of the persons we identified appeared to not be profiting from the sex work of anybody other than themselves.

The 9.2% of persons identified who appeared to be profiting from the sex work of another person or multiple other persons could be described as either brothel managers or landlords or staff.  In only one of these cases was there allegations of abuse.  In numerous cases gardaí or sex workers gave evidence that the person convicted had treated sex workers well.

In regard to the 90.8% of people identified who appeared not to be profiting from the sex work of anybody other than themselves, some were said to be said independent operators and others were said to be working for somebody else who was not before the courts.  Where evidence was given that the person was working for somebody else this was said either by garda witnesses, defence counsel or the person themselves.   2 persons were said to be the victims trafficking by their defence solicitor.

Age & Gender

We found persons convicted of brothel keeping were usually young women.  This is fitting given most are sex workers and sex workers in Ireland are most commonly young women.

In the case of 113 of the 139 persons convicted of brothel keeping an age was given in the media reports.  Most (61.1%) were 25-44, 31.9% were 18-24 and 7.1% were 45+.

Persons convicted of brothel keeping are overwhelmingly (92.2%) female.

Of the 11 males, 3 were reported to be transwomen.  We think these would have been recorded in CSO data as male so have done the same here.  If transwomen were counted as female, 94.3% of those convicted of brothel keeping would be female.


In the case of 137 of the 139 persons convicted of brothel keeping a nationality was given in the media reports.  98.5% of those convicted were foreign nationals.  65% were EU nationals and 35% were non-EU nationals.  The most common nationalities were Romanian (43.1%), Brazilian (21.2%), Spanish (7.3%), Chinese (4.4%) and Hungarian (3.6%).

Most sex workers in Ireland today are non-nationals so it is fitting that most persons convicted of brothel keeping are non-nationals.  However there are a significant number of sex workers in Ireland who are Irish or nationals of the UK or other English speaking countries, yet such persons appear to almost never come before the courts.  It would seem the gardaí do target their enforcement actions in regard to brothel keeping offences almost entirely on foreign nationals from non English speaking countries.

Timeline & Locations

Most usually it seems brothel raids in the Republic of Ireland are the result of proactive policing operations, as opposed to in reaction to anything like a complaint to the gardaí.  As such brothel raids don't tend to occur evenly over time.  Instead they are frequently the result of  "crackdowns" and often clustered together in a short space of time during which obtaining brothel keeping convictions appears to have been the focus of provocative garda operations.

"Crackdowns" are also usually local.  Some local areas appear to have frequent "crackdowns".  Other local areas don't appear to have had any "crackdowns".  Subsequently there is little parity between the number of brothel convictions in an area and the population or number of sex workers in that area.  Due to this uneven garda approach across the country the predominantly rural county of Limerick leads on brothel keeping convictions with 27 persons convicted, followed by Cavan (26), Sligo (21), Cork (12) and Galway (12).

Whilst nationwide 90.8% of the persons prosecuted for brothel keeping appear to be sex workers not profiting from the sex work of anybody else, there is some evidence of a differing garda approach in a few areas, most notably in Dublin where 8 of 9 persons convicted did appear to be profiting from the sex work of others.


Most of the persons convicted of  brothel keeping in the Republic of Ireland were given a fine or other financial penalty and/or jail sentence.  Details of punishments given were available for 133 of the 139 persons.

Fines or other financial penalties ranged from €80 - €10,000.  In most cases gardaí had also seized cash and property (commonly laptops, mobile phones, condoms, sex toys) during a brothel raid and often this was not returned.  The State frequently benefited financially and it was also common for judges to order that cash be donated to a charity.  The charity that benefited most was anti sex work organisation Ruhama, which our media analysis shows was awarded in the region of €20,000 - €30,000.  An unrelated FOI request we recently got a response to from the Courts Service shows Ruhama receiving €54,980 under the courts "poor box" scheme from 2007 to March 2016.  Sometimes persons received a fine and a jail sentence or the choice between a fine or a jail sentence.  Jail sentences were usually suspended but in a number of cases the sentences were not suspended or the person went to jail as they were unable to pay the fine required of them to avoid jail.