Saturday 27 May 2017

Row as local paper refuses to name and shame the guilty men

Liam Collins

Liam Collins

A ROW has broken out over the "naming and shaming" of 21 men who were caught in a garda 'sting' in which one man agreed to pay a female garda posing as a "decoy prostitute" for sex while others approached two female gardai and offered to pay them for sex.

The offences happened between November 11 and December 4 this year and a number of well known figures -- including a retired school principal from Ennis in Co Clare -- were identified in the national newspapers when 21 of the 26 men caught in the sting, codenamed 'Operation Freewheel', pleaded guilty at Limerick District court last Tuesday.

They were each fined €470, which they were ordered to pay to Doras Luimni, an organisation which is a core member of the anti-prostitution campaign, 'Turn Off the Red Light'.

It is believed that a number of defendants who have not appeared in court may challenge the validity of their arrest by officers posing as prostitutes.

The identification of the men has led to a row between the editor of the local paper, which didn't name the men, and a former journalist with the paper now working for RTE. The editor of the Limerick Leader Alan English said his paper "took a decision on the day the men appeared in court that we would not publish their names", partly because of what he described as "the unique circumstances involved".

But a former reporter with the paper, who is now working in the Dail for RTE, has said the newspaper "shirked its responsibility" on the issue.

"I spent endless hours in Limerick courts reporting for the Limerick Leader, and on a number of occasions I covered cases where women were convicted of soliciting for the purpose of prostitution, or operating a brothel," wrote reporter Petula Martyn.

"My personal view was that these women were victims; the weaker party who had been exploited by men for their own sexual gratification. They were, however, defendants who had broken the law, and the cases were dealt with in a public courtroom and their names were a matter of public record.

"There was never a question about publishing their names in the Limerick Leader, and more often than not, a photograph of the women leaving court accompanied the story," said the reporter.

She said it was unfair that the same procedure was not followed in relation to male defendants from the local area. "It is not fair. It is a clear double standard. It is rare, but I think on this occasion, the Limerick Leader shirked its responsibility," she said.

However, in a further twist it has been pointed out that on last Tuesday's News at One on RTE Radio 1, RTE's Sean O'Rourke queried whether the guilty men would be identified in the Limerick Leader newspaper.

RTE Mid-West correspondent Cathy Halloran replied that was a matter was for the newspaper, but RTE itself did not identify the men in the broadcast.

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