Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Police have enough powers on sex trade

Lord Morrow’s sponsoring of a Private Members’ Bill to make the payment for sex illegal in Northern Ireland is likely to be as unworkable as it is counter- productive.

It is going to cost an inordinate sum of money and resources to administer. There are also a number of practical issues: how is it going to be policed?

Is the onus going to be on the purchaser to prove that ‘he’ didn't pay? (Though, of course, there are women who also pay for sex).

What if both parties claim the sex was consensual without any money changing hands? Only a tiny percentage of sex work involves street prostitution: the overwhelming bulk has moved to the internet.

Who is going to monitor the literally thousands of advertisements from sex workers appearing daily? How are we to know if money changed hands in any of these encounters?

Evidence from Sweden that changed its own laws about a decade ago to criminalise the payment for sex is patchy at best.

All that it seems to have done is displace prostitution to Norway and Denmark and make it more invisible via the internet.

Victims of sex-trafficking are wheeled out by Lord Morrow as a justification for a change in the law. I can't help feeling, though, that for Lord Morrow there is more to it than that.

Nevertheless, religious fervour rarely leads to good law.

The PSNI has enough powers to go after pimps and traffickers as it stands — and they should use them.

DR GRAHAM ELLISON

School of Law

Queen's University, Belfast

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