DUP man Lord Morrow hits out at PSNI 'meddling' over prostitution Bill
A row has erupted between a DUP peer and the PSNI over proposed legislation to change Northern Ireland's prostitution laws.
Lord Morrow accused the police of "overstepping the mark" after a senior officer insisted the force does not support the "liberalisation" of prostitution laws which are due to be debated at Stormont.
The DUP MLA will today bring a Bill to the Assembly which, if passed, would see men who purchase sex criminalised instead of those who sell it.
But Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris said the PSNI wanted to find an alternative to tackling prostitution and human trafficking.
"The PSNI position is clear in that we do not support the liberalisation of laws in relation to prostitution," Mr Harris said.
"We are striving to find better ways to tackle the serious problem of prostitution and human trafficking and are keen to be part of the wider societal debate about how we can collectively minimise harm caused by prostitution." The ACC said while investigations into prostitution and trafficking were complex, the PSNI would do what it could to reduce harm and risk involved to all those concerned.
He said the police service had worked closely with the Department of Justice in giving its views on Lord Morrow's Bill and was satisfied its comments would be taken on board in any future legislation.
"Having provided input to the consultation, PSNI will respect the role of the Assembly and will be ready to fulfil our responsibility regarding enforcement of any new legislation passed by the Assembly," Mr Harris added.
Lord Morrow's Bill is based on a Swedish law that was enacted almost 15 years ago, which criminalises anyone who pays for sex.
Earlier this month, PSNI Detective Superintendent Philip Marshall came out against the proposals, saying they would not help.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Marshall said: "This Bill would present difficulties around the criminalisation of anyone purchasing sex.
"It would be hard to prove, it would be hard to police.
"Actually, we already have legislation on statute which deals with the purchasing of a sexual service from someone who has been subject to exploitation. That is an absolute offence."
Lord Morrow yesterday hit back at the PSNI saying "it is unfortunate that the PSNI has become publicly involved in this debate and opposing his Bill.
"The Northern Ireland Assembly is the forum for debating and reviewing proposed legislation and that process is continuing.
"Unfortunately, the PSNI has publicly entered the political arena to oppose the introduction of my Bill," he added.
"It is a very rare event for a police force in the United Kingdom to intervene and oppose legislation passing through a parliamentary process.
"The current activity by the PSNI in opposing my Bill is deeply unprofessional and is showing complete disrespect for the Northern Ireland Assembly.
"Finally, let's not forget this is a 19-clause Bill. Although the police and Press attention is on criminalising the payment of sex, it is only one clause of the Bill."
Currently individual consenting adults are allowed to buy or sell sexual services here. But many associated activities like organising prostitution, kerb crawling or soliciting in a public place are illegal. Some people here, particularly immigrants, have been trafficked into prostitution.
Lord Morrow, a DUP MLA, is promoting a Bill that aims to combat human trafficking by outlawing the purchase – but not the sale – of sex.