Statement by The Minister For Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD on the operation of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences ) Act 2017

Commencement Speech 27-03-18


I thank Senator Bacik for raising this important matter and I want to acknowledge her strong record in this policy area over many years and her contribution in ensuring this legislation was placed on the statue books.

At the outset, I’d like to take the opportunity to remind the house of the provisions of the Act, as they refer to prostitution-related offences.

Part 4 of the Act provides for two new offences of purchasing sexual services, in the context of prostitution.  The purpose of these offences is to target the demand for prostitution. This part also removes those who provide sexual services through prostitution from the existing offences of soliciting and loitering for the purpose of prostitution.

The new offences under the Act are, first, a general offence of paying to engage in sexual activity with a prostitute, which carries a penalty of a fine of up to €500 for a first offence and fines of up to €1000 for a second or subsequent offence; secondly, the more serious offence of paying for sexual activity with a trafficked person, in the context of prostitution, an offence which carries a potential penalty of up to 5 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine. 

In both cases, the person selling or, in the case of a trafficked or exploited person being forced to sell, the sexual service will not commit an offence.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 was enacted on the 22nd  of February 2017, and much of the Act, including the provisions I have just described, was commenced on the 27th of March, 2017.

Since then, the offences have been available for investigation and prosecution by An Garda Síochána and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions respectively. The operation of the offences, and data gathering mechanisms in respect of same, are operational matters for those organisations.

A new incident category on Pulse, titled “Purchase of Sex” will capture the offence of the purchase of sexual services. This is part of Pulse Release R7.3 and is scheduled to be live on Pulse by 30th March 2018. This will provide a facility to capture all incidents relating to the purchase of sexual services. The Garda National Protective Services Bureau is monitoring the impact of the offence and is developing initiatives to ensure enforcement.

The Senator will be aware that arrangements for the measurement of the impact of the law are set out in Section 27. That Section specifies that a Report will be prepared after 3 years on the number of arrests during the initial three years in respect of the new offences as well as an assessment of the impact of the offences on those who provide sexual services for payment.