Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Questions (255, 256)

Bríd Smith

Question:

255. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if specific training for gardaí has been provided in the way in which to deal with migrant, non-resident and vulnerable sex workers and women who may face prosecution since the passing of the Criminal Law (Sexual offences ) Act 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49767/19]

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Bríd Smith

Question:

256. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if consideration has been given by his Department or An Garda Síochána to provide supports and or a dedicated liaison officer for sex workers to report on violence against them without fear of subsequently being prosecuted under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49768/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 255 and 256 together.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 amended legislation relating to prostitution. Part 4 of the 2017 Act provides for a new offence of paying for sexual activity with a prostitute. The Act also removes those who offer their services as a prostitute from the existing offences of soliciting for the purpose of prostitution. One purpose of this measure is to provide additional protection to persons involved in prostitution and to allow them to make reports to the Gardaí, for instance where they have been subjected to violence by clients, without fear or concern of being prosecuted for selling sexual services.

This part of the Act is due to be reviewed in 2020. This will include an assessment of the impact on the welfare of those who engage in sexual activity for payment, as well as information on prosecutions and convictions. The review will commence early next year.

The Garda Commissioner is statutorily responsible for the management and control of An Garda Síochána, including by arranging for the recruitment, training and deployment of personnel.

I am informed that An Garda Síochána is continuously improving its specialist services. Responding to the needs of victims and vulnerable persons has seen the rolling out by the Garda Commissioner of Divisional Protective Services Units (DPSUs). These Units will support the delivery of a consistent and professional approach to the investigation of sexual and domestic crime.

DPSUs are tasked with improving services to victims of domestic and sexual violence, improving the investigation of domestic and sexual violence incidents and identifying and managing risk. I have been informed by the Commissioner that to date, DPSUs have been established in 13 locations nationwide, namely Carlow, Cork City, DMR South Central, DMR West, Galway, Kerry, Kilkenny, Limerick, Louth and Waterford Garda Divisions as well as the newly established units in DMR East, DMR South and Tipperary.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is expected that DPSUs should be rolled-out to all Garda Divisions on a phased basis by the end Q1, 2020. Rollout of these units will meet a key commitment in A Policing Service for the Future , the four-year implementation plan giving effect to the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda National Protective Services Bureau, Special Crime Operations, under the framework of Operation Quest, have conducted fifteen seminars since 2011, in conjunction with Ruhama, a non-governmental organisation that works on a national level with women affected by prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation. I understand that two seminars are generally conducted annually with the main objective of providing Gardaí with a greater understanding of prostitution in Ireland, how to deal appropriately with women affected by prostitution, changes in relevant legislation and how to identify the signs of human trafficking. This training was modified to reflect the commencement of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017.

I am informed that to date, 311 Gardaí from across Ireland have attended this seminar. Participant evaluation of the training has been extremely positive.

In addition to these seminars for Garda members and the specialist training of members of the DPSUs, the Deputy may wish to be aware during their training in the Garda College Templemore, all Probationer Gardaí are provided with awareness raising training in the areas of prostitution and human trafficking, the importance of recognising the vulnerability of such persons and how to deal with them appropriately. Probationer Gardaí are also provided with training in relation to human trafficking, including the services for potential victims of human trafficking provided for under the Second National Action Plan to prevent and combat human trafficking in Ireland.