I am introducing amendment No. 17 to provide for a review of the operation of the new provision contained in section 25 of the Bill to criminalise the purchase of sexual services. A number of amendments have been tabled by Deputies proposing similar provisions and that are alternatives to amendment No. 17. I am referring to those tabled by Deputy Coppinger and the Anti-Austerity Alliance, amendment No. 18 from People Before Profit, amendment No. 19 from Deputy Jonathan O'Brien, amendment No. 20 in the name of Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, amendment No. 23 in the names of Deputies Clare Daly and Wallace and amendment No. 24 from Deputy Pringle.
My amendment states that the report shall include information as to the number of arrests and convictions in respect of the new offence under section 7A as created by this Bill. This is the provision that targets the demand for sexual services and I have limited the review to this particular provision, as it is this that has given rise to some concern regarding the impact on the safety and well-being of sex workers. A review of prostitution legislation by an Oireachtas committee three years ago recommended the introduction of this offence, and there is nothing to stop a similar review from happening in the future. It does not require legislative provision.
However, in focusing the review provision in the Bill on the single offence of criminalising the purchase of sexual services rather than including it in a large review of trafficking legislation and prostitution legislation generally, which can be the subject of a separate review, we can concentrate more deliberately and forensically on the impact of the offence with less risk of it being minimised in the context of a much larger review.
I have set a date for the review being completed within three years of the section being commenced. I am recommending this because it is pragmatic and will afford the best opportunity to ensure that the legislation has been embedded for a sufficient period to measure its impact adequately. To begin the review at too early a point may result in an inconclusive report. Northern Ireland committed to reviewing its legislation after three years, and it would be useful to have a comparable period to measure the impact of the offence in this jurisdiction.
I remind Deputies that, under Standing Order 164A, the Minister with responsibility for implementation of an Act shall provide a report that shall review the functioning of the Act and must be laid in the Library. This must be done 12 months following the enactment of a Bill. Therefore, a report will be prepared within one year because that is the normal statutory provision.
The Opposition amendments, including amendment No. 1 to the Government amendment, are too broad. The Deputies are familiar with their own amendments. Some seek to include in the review the impact of our existing human trafficking offences under the 2008 Act on the safety and well-being of persons who engage in sexual activity for payment. The existing laws relating to human trafficking target those who traffic human beings for the purpose of exploitation, be it labour exploitation, sexual exploitation or exploitation of some other form. No one is suggesting that our human trafficking laws have impacted on the safety and well-being of sex workers and require a review in that light, yet that is the implication contained in some of the Opposition amendments.
I wish to make a general point about the work that has been done in monitoring the State's response to human trafficking. Last October, I launched the second national action plan to combat human trafficking in Ireland. It has been published and is available on our website. It is extensive in terms of setting out the goals and work, including interagency work, that are required if we are to deal with this issue. The goals include the identification of victims of trafficking, protection and support for its victims and ensuring an effective criminal justice response. The plan outlines many initiatives across the agencies, including NGOs and the Garda, to monitor the provision of support to victims and so on. The plan is being overseen by a working group and was sent for evaluation by the Council of Europe in December. I met the Council of Europe and it will revert to us with its assessment. If it has recommendations, I will be open to implementing them.
I am satisfied that my amendment achieves the purpose that was debated on Committee Stage, namely, that we needed to review this legislation. I am happy to do that. We should examine the impact of the new offence of purchasing sexual services in the context of prostitution. Regardless, there will be an overall review in the usual statutory way after one year. I hope that the Deputies will consider accepting this as a way forward.