Belfast Telegraph

Prostitution ban peer shocked at Lee death

Brave: Laura Lee died age 39
Brave: Laura Lee died age 39

By Victoria Leonard

The DUP peer who got prostitution banned in Northern Ireland has spoken of his shock at the death of sex worker Laura Lee.

Lord Morrow said he "took no joy" in learning of the passing of Ms Lee, who tried to have the legislation overturned.

The former Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA described her opposition to the law here as "misguided".

Ms Lee, a 39-year-old law graduate and advocate for sex workers' rights, had worked in the sex industry for 24 years. She died on Wednesday.

She had been poised to bring a judicial review against the law making it illegal for men to pay for sex here.

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act was introduced in 2015 after Lord Morrow brought a private member's bill before the Assembly.

Northern Ireland is currently the only UK region to make the purchase of sex a criminal offence.

Ms Lee's legal team argued that amendments to the legislation breached her human rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination, as well as failing to comply with equality law.

Lord Morrow told the Belfast Telegraph that it had come as a "big shock" to learn of Ms Lee's death, despite the fact that her views were "diametrically opposed" to his own.

"I would like to extend my sympathies to her daughter and family at this time," he said. "She took an opposing stance to mine on the issues, but I take no joy out of the death of anyone.

"I'm not aware of the circumstances, but it shows you that you never know what a day could bring forward.

"I never spoke to her one-on-one - the closest contact with her was on Nolan when she was debating on the opposite side.

"I thought her views were misguided.

"Laura Lee didn't succeed in changing my views."

When asked if Ms Lee had been stigmatised for her job as a sex worker, Lord Morrow replied: "Laura Lee took a position in regard to issues, and when you do that you are up for whatever is coming to you.

"I took my position regarding human trafficking and she disagreed with me."

Laura Lee was born in Dublin but moved to Scotland and lived in Glasgow.

Yesterday her daughter, Cat, posted a message to her mother's Twitter account confirming her death, and saying she was "so proud" of her.

She wrote: "She asked me to let you all know that she was so grateful for everyone's support.

"I ask you to continue all of your amazing work in her honour. I'm so proud of all my mum accomplished in her tragically short life." In a statement, Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) said its members were "heartbroken and devastated at the loss of our dear friend, colleague and SWAI board member Laura Lee".

The organisation added: "Our hearts are with Laura's family, friends and all who knew and loved her. Laura's bravery was unending.

"She believed passionately in justice and was fighting for every single sex worker in this world.

"Her dedication and commitment to our struggle has made a huge and lasting impact, and she will never be forgotten."

Supporters of Ms Lee have raised over £4,000 on a JustGiving page to cover her funeral costs.

Belfast Telegraph

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