Just one person has been done for paying for sex in Northern Ireland since DUP MLA Maurice Morrow’s bill - designed to hit prostitution on the demand-side and protect sex workers as pioneered in Sweden - was enacted last year.
Although two people have been arrested since the introduction of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act 2015, which was supposed to discourage the use and abuse of sex workers, often trafficked and often suffering terrible working conditions, one was let off with a discretionary disposal.
New statistics show the legislation has not been achieving one of its main aims since its introduction at the start of 2015.
Proponents of the new law had complained that there hadn’t been enough convictions (under article 64A of the Sexual Offences (NI) Order 2008) of people paying for sex with prostitutes who had been subjected to force.
DUP MLA Brenda Hale, for example, had argued: “The grim reality is that none of those who pay to use the bodies of trafficked people has faced any consequences whatsoever for what they have done. Not a single person has been charged or convicted of the offence of paying for sex with a person who has been coerced, as outlined in article 64A of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.”
She described the 2008 legislation as an ‘abject failure’ insofar as the prosecution of those paying for sex was concerned.
But according to data newly released by the PSNI, Morrow’s legislation hasn’t been much better.
As aforementioned just two people were arrested on suspicion of having paid for sexual services under Morrow’s law.
By contrast, one person was arrested, charged and convicted for kerb-crawling over the past five years under the old legislation.
Five were arrested on suspicion of causing or inciting prostitution for gain, within the past five years, but there were no charges or convictions.
The PSNI have, however, successfully targeted brothel-keepers and managers.
Forty-three people were arrested, twenty-five charged and seven convicted for controlling prostitution for gain in the past five years.
And fifty-eight people were arrested, 28 charged and 21 convicted for brothel-keeping during the same period.