A sex worker representative group say gardai have known about a gang targeting workers for some time.
Gardai say seven targeted attacks have taken place on sex workers, mainly in the in the Dublin area who advertise services online since mid-October.
Sex workers have been attacked and robbed by a number of men after a fake meeting was organised online.
Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) say both sex workers and Gardai have known about the criminals involved for some time, but sex workers refuse to contact the Garda due to lack of trust.
Ireland adopted the “Nordic Model” on March 27 2017, criminalising the purchase of sex, not the selling of sex, which the Government says is aimed at tackling trafficking and protecting vulnerable people in prostitution.
Sex worker organisations have railed against the change since it was implemented, saying the new laws make workers more vulnerable.
The law make it difficult for sex workers to keep themselves safe. We can't operate in a safe environment. We can't hire security because that is against the law. we rely on whisper networks— SWAI Ireland (@SWAIIreland) November 14, 2019
“The increased assaults and robberies on sex workers currently being investigated by gardai are a direct consequence of the law,” says Kate McGrew, current sex worker and director of Sex Workers’ Alliance Ireland.
“The law has directly facilitated these type of attacks because criminals can realistically assume that sex workers will be alone and defenceless if attacked.
“If they are working together for safety, the criminals know the worker is unlikely to call the Gardai because they fear being prosecuted for so-called brothel-keeping.”
The group say the fact that these attacks are being carried out by gangs of people, means that sex workers lives are now at risk from criminals gangs.
SWAI also say advice issued by gardai in the wake of the attacks is “ludicrous”.
Ms McGrew added: “Assurances have been made that sex workers who have been violently assaulted and robbed will be treated with the ‘utmost sensitivity and confidentiality.’
“Such a statement would never need to be issued for any other worker or person subject to violent attacked and theft.
“Asking sex workers to only see known clients to them shows the disconnect that the Gardai have from the lived experiences of sex workers.
“A worker needs to pay rent, pay bills and feed themselves, just like everyone else and is not in a position to turn away clients. Many sex workers are single mothers and on the run up to Christmas, they cannot afford to follow this advice.”
Speaking to PA Media on Thursday, Detective Chief Superintendent Daly, from Garda National Protective Services, said sex workers choosing not to come forward is a “cultural thing”.
“This was a targeted attack on a portion of our community who are involved in prostitution, it’s a dangerous profession that they work in, that needs to be recognised absolutely,” he said.
“We are offering protection and services for anyone in this industry if they’re attacked.”
It was put to Mr Daly that most sex workers say they do not come forward if they are attacked due to fears they will be surveilled by Gardai, resulting in themselves or clients being arrested.
“We don’t do surveillance, but if there are crimes there, we are bound to enforce the law, and the workers will be aware of that.
“In some cases its necessary, you have people who are trafficked, coerced into this business, and it’s not correct that we simply say; ‘Because it might hurt some people’s business we won’t enforce it’.
“There has to be an element of enforcement, particularly those who are vulnerable or trafficked.
“Our intention is to protect the worker.
“I think the lack of trust is a cultural thing, we’re working hard to dismantle the cultural issues, the concerns and fears.
“We recognise they’re in a dangerous business and we want to provide the supports, they probably find that if they do come forward that their concerns are not factually correct.”
Mr Daly confirmed he had not contacted representative group Sex Workers Alliance Ireland in relation to the latest spate of attacks.