Belfast Telegraph

Ford to commission research into prostitution in Northern Ireland

Stormont Executive press release - Department of Justice

Justice Minister David Ford is to commission independent research into prostitution in order to inform future policy on the issue.

The issue of prostitution has received considerable interest recently, particularly due to the proposal within Lord Morrow’s Private Member’s Bill on Human Trafficking to criminalise paying for sexual services.

Today the Minister repeated his commitment to tackle human trafficking but said that prostitution and human trafficking, although there is some overlap, need to be considered in their own right.

The independent research on the nature and extent of prostitution will ensure that any subsequent policy decisions on legislation are based on sound evidence of the situation in Northern Ireland.

David Ford said: “I am committed to doing all I can to tackle human trafficking and, indeed, my Department is taking forward a major programme of work. It is a horrendous crime and all our efforts must be on prevention, recovering and supporting victims and prosecuting those responsible. I therefore welcome the awareness raising and public debate that Lord Morrow’s Bill has generated.

“However, it is a matter of public record that I have concerns about elements of the Bill and in particular Clause 6 which contains the provision to criminalise paying for sexual services. I have spent time engaging with a number of different stakeholders, including the PSNI and a broad range of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and believe that before making any provision to change the law, much more detailed research is needed.

“The wider policy issues surrounding prostitution, including supply, demand, health needs and the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable women, all deserve consideration and, if changes to the law are required, such proposals should be subject to wide ranging consultation. I am very concerned that in the absence of such thorough research and consultation we risk a number of serious, unintended, consequences.

“I consider that this research will set out the position in Northern Ireland from where we can reach informed decisions on the way forward.”

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