Shatter Review of Legislation on Prostitution

Responding to comments earlier today from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation calling for criminalisation of the purchase of sexual services, Minister Shatter re-iterated his determination to ensure that everything that can reasonably be done to combat the exploitation of vulnerable persons through prostitution and human trafficking will be done.

Ireland has strong legislation to combat the scourge of human trafficking for sexual exploitation. The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 gave effect to Ireland’s obligations in various international instruments to criminalise human trafficking. The trafficking of persons for sexual exploitation, including prostitution, is a criminal offence and those convicted of such trafficking are liable to life imprisonment. In addition, it is an offence under the legislation for any person to knowingly solicit or importune a trafficked person, in any place, for the purpose of prostitution.

In the case of prostitution legislation, there are a number of offences directly aimed at protecting prostitutes from exploitation. Under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993, it is an offence to organise prostitution, coerce or compel a person to be a prostitute, knowingly live off the earnings of a prostitute, or keep or manage a brothel. In addition, the solicitation offence in the legislation is targeted at buyers, sellers and third parties, such as pimps. Buyers as well as sellers are liable to prosecution and the same penalties apply.

Strong as the law is, there is always room for improvement and the law on prostitution is currently being reviewed with a view to enhancing the protection of vulnerable persons.

Commenting on the review, Minister Shatter said: "As part of this review, I announced in the Autumn that I would be arranging a consultation process on the future direction of prostitution legislation. A detailed discussion document to facilitate the consultation process is being prepared. It will be appreciated that the discussion document, if it is to fully inform the public, needs to be prepared carefully. It is expected that the document will be ready in the coming weeks. 

This is an issue which affects individuals and communities. It is also a societal issue. There are differing and genuinely held views on this matter. Public debate should be open to the widest possible audience and I want to ensure that everyone who wishes to make a contribution to this important debate is given the opportunity to do so. That is the reason I have decided on a consultation process before charting the way ahead. To help inform the debate, I have already published my Department's report on Swedish legislation criminalising the purchase of sexual services. This is available on the Department's website ( 

I look forward to the results of the consultation process, which I expect will get under way shortly".

13 February, 2012