Monday 21 May 2018

Sex worker granted open hearing to decriminalise purchase of sex

Photo: PA
Photo: PA
Daire Courtney

Daire Courtney

A sex worker has been granted an open hearing to challenge the criminalisation of the purchase of sex in Northern Ireland.

Sex worker Laura Lee, originally from Dublin, has challenged the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 on the basis that the law infringes on her human rights and labour rights.

Ms Lee also challenged a pre-existing law banning brothel-keeping, which she claims forces sex workers to work alone and therefore in much more dangerous conditions.

This judgement means that Ms Lee’s case can proceed to a full hearing of the arguments. Dates for the judicial review have yet to be released.

Ms Lee, who has a law degree, also plans to bring a challenge to the High Court south of the border if the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015, which would criminalise the purchase of sex in the Republic, passes. The bill, which also has strict penalties for loitering and brothel-keeping, has broad political support.

Amnesty International last year declared their support for decriminalisation of sex work and are campaigning against the bill.

Some former sex workers have spoken out in favour of it, but the Sex Workers’ Alliance Ireland are staunchly against its introduction.

In a statement, SWAI Coordinator Kate McCrew said “These proposals do not decriminalise workers as supporters of the Bill will claim. The vast majority of workers, those working together for safety, and the most vulnerable workers, those working on the street, remain criminalised and actually will face steeper penalties.”

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