Belfast Telegraph

Prostitution laws warning issued

Legalising prostitution in Ireland would line the pockets of organised crime gangs, police have warned.

Senior officers from Sweden and Norway - where men who buy sex are criminalised instead of prostitutes - said the numbers being trafficked to work in the sex industry would be slashed if laws were changed to protect women.

Detective Superintendent Jonas Trolle, who heads a trafficking investigation team in Stockholm, said crime gangs who force women into prostitution are also dealing with drugs, weapons and money laundering.

"Prostitution is always connected with organised crime," said Mr Trolle.

"You will never have a car salesman in Dublin change his business to prostitution or a brothel, you will give a criminal gang a wider income. That's a big problem."

Mr Trolle and a team of specialists were in Dublin to meet organisations and agencies working with prostitution and human trafficking, including senior gardai from the organised crime unit, members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Health Executive Board, the Legal Aid Board and housing associations.

A 10-year review revealed that Stockholm - with a population of 1.5 million - has approximately 200 people engaged in prostitution, down from 3,000 in the 1970s. Meanwhile, Barcelona - which has roughly the same population as Stockholm - has about 20,000 people engaged in street prostitution.

The visit was hosted by the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) and non-governmental organisation Ruhama, which have been campaigning for the implementation of laws that penalise the purchaser of sex while protecting the seller.

Denise Charlton, ICI chief executive, said Justice Minister Alan Shatter is giving serious consideration to applying the Swedish model to Irish law.

Ms Charlton added: "We are confident that today's exchange will increase awareness and understanding of the importance of penalising the purchase of sex as a measure to reduce prostitution and trafficking."

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