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Northern Ireland sex payment law 'not a priority'

By Staff Reporter

Not one person has been prosecuted for paying for sex in Northern Ireland - more than a year after it was made illegal, it has emerged.

Just six people have been arrested, with no one ending up in court to date. It is thought that more than 800 men here pay for sex every day.

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, which became law in June 2015, includes a clause criminalising payment for sex. But figures show that only a handful of cases have been investigated by the PSNI.

Detective Chief Inspector Douglas Grant from the PSNI's serious crime branch told the Belfast Telegraph: "In relation to paying for sexual services, there have been six arrests while five other suspects who were not arrested had reports about them sent to PPS.

"Of those suspects who were arrested, one was released unconditionally and five were reported to PPS.

"The enforcement of the legislation is in line with comments previously made by police on a variety of platforms."

Det Supt John McVea said the PSNI's priority was to target human trafficking and sexual exploitation rather than prosecute those men paying for sex.

He said: "Paying for sex within this act is a not a priority. Our priority is to target the human trafficking element and sexual exploitation."

Separate inquiries found that three cases referred to the PPS were thrown out.

Two men received cautions while two other cases are still being considered by a senior prosecutor.

DUP peer Lord Morrow, who led the campaign to outlaw paying for sex, said he was closely monitoring the PSNI's enforcement of the new legislation.

He warned that questions will be raised if there are no prosecutions in the coming year.

"The first 12 months of the legislation were to be viewed as a settling in period and that has now passed. The time for action in earnest has arrived," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"The 'I didn't realise' excuse will no longer be tolerated. This legislation is fully enforceable if all agencies work together."

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