Human trafficking bill out for public consultation

 
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So should paying for sex be made illegal in Northern Ireland?

The DUP MLA Lord Morrow has included the suggestion in his Stormont private member's bill on human trafficking. He isn't a voice crying in the wilderness.

In Scotland, Labour MSP Rhoda Grant believes criminalising those who use prostitutes would reduce demand for their services. But her bid to get a ban fast-tracked through the Holyrood parliament was rejected in June.

South of the border, the Immigrant Council of Ireland has launched a high profile Turn Off The Red Light billboard campaign urging TDs to follow the example of the ban already in force in Sweden.

The former House of Commons leader Harriet Harman proposed outlawing paying for sex back in 2007, but the suggestion didn't make it through Westminster.

Instead, the then Labour government pushed through a measure making it illegal to use a prostitute "controlled for another person's gain". This measure is already in force in Northern Ireland and pleading ignorance of the circumstances under which a prostitute is working does not count as a defence.

Lord Morrow sees outlawing prostitution as part of a William Wilberforce-type crusade against modern day slavery - his consultation has been timed to conclude in October on world anti-slavery day.

Those who object to a ban tend to counter that it will only push the "oldest profession" further underground, making those involved more vulnerable. The arguments for and against have been admirably summarised phere.

Lord Morrow says his bill will bring Northern Ireland into line with EU anti-trafficking directives, but it goes much further than the Stormont Justice department's response to the same directives. The Justice Minister David Ford is already backing two changes to the law to criminalise trafficking someone within the UK and to enable a UK national who has been involved in trafficking someone abroad to be prosecuted in Northern Ireland.

There's a strong consensus around the need to tackle human trafficking, exemplified by the recent creation of a Stormont all party group on the issue. Whether that consensus extends to a complete ban on paying for sex will depend on MLAs' evaluation of the success or failure of the Swedish ban, and that will then determine whether the Morrow bill gets the all party backing normally required for a Stormont private members bill to make its way into law.

 
Mark Devenport Article written by Mark Devenport Mark Devenport Political editor, Northern Ireland

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 6.

    #5 - numpties! I love it! Perfect!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 5.

    I have to agree with #3, it is well intentioned but will never work.

    The greatest minds and law-makers in world history have never managed to stop prostitution, so what exactly makes our home-grown bunch of numpties at Stormont think they have the answers?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 4.

    Customers will be accused of something they could not possibly have known for sure - whether the prostitute was co-erced into the job or made a career choice.
    So how about an official licence to work issued by local government once checks have been made (like a CRB check). This would avoid doubt and clean up traffiking, and put some money in the local authority coffers..

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 3.

    This bill will never work. How will the police prove that a) there was a sexual relationship and b) that the man paid for this? It would be like banning sin - a good idea but somewhat impractical.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 2.

    There are already laws on the books to deal with prostitution and brothel keeping. Its a matter of enforcement and pursuing the foreign as well as local gangs. The actual problem is immigration control. It would be welcome if MLA's divorced themselves from business interests and began considering the negative impacts unrestricted immigration is having on NI and many of their constituents.

 

Comments 5 of 6

 

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