April 14, 2023
A Review of the Criminalisation of Paying for Sexual Services in Northern Ireland
Ellison, G., Dhonaill, C.N., Early, E., A Review of the Criminalisation of Paying for Sexual Services in Northern Ireland. Belfast: Queens University, Department of Justice, (2019). Available at: https://www.justice-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/justice/report-criminalisation-paying-for-sex.pdf
Findings from Advocating Opportunity’s “END DEMAND LITERATURE – DESK REVIEW” (Compiled by: Emily Dunlap, Komal Hans, and Donna Hoffman with contributions from: Kate D’Adamo and Megan K. Mattimoe):
“On the basis of the findings in the research report, the Department has concluded that there is no evidence that the offense of purchasing sexual services has produced a downward pressure on the demand for, or supply of, sexual services.” (pp. 5-6) (emphasis added).
“A trend analysis of 173,460 advertisements indicates that the legislation has had little effect on the supply of or demand for sexual services; This analysis indicates there has been a 5% increase in the number of sex work advertisements since the law was changed; Sex workers reported a surge in business in the period following introduction of the legislation; The number of unique sex workers advertising also increased in the post-law period from 3,351 to 3,973, an increase of 622;1,450 advertisements for sexual services were noted over a 6-day period in April 2019; It is estimated that the number of sex workers advertising per day is 308, similar to the number noted in the earlier research; based on the premise that criminalization would end demand for commercial sexual services there should have been a greater ‘tailing off’ of sex worker advertising during the period following the implementation of Article 64A. This has not occurred.” (p. 4). (emphasis added).
“The on-street prostitution sector has declined further since the 2014 research, from around 20 to less than 10; Serious crimes against sex workers in Northern Ireland are comparatively rare. However, between 2015 and 2018 there has been an increase in the number of reports… for example, assaults (from 3 to 13) sexual assaults (from 1 to 13) and threatening behavior (from 10 to 42); Sex workers are exposed to higher rates of anti-social and nuisance behavior; Sex workers reported higher levels of anxiety and unease, and increased stigmatization.” (pp. 4-5).
“On the basis of the findings in the research report, the Department has concluded that there is no evidence that the offense of purchasing sexual services has produced a downward pressure on the demand for, or supply of, sexual services. Evidence obtained from the survey with people who purchase sexual services shows that the legislation has had a limited deterrent effect on client behavior. For example, a majority of clients in Northern Ireland (53%) state that the law has made no difference to how often they purchase sex and they will continue to purchase sex with the same frequency. A further 27% are likely to continue to purchase sex at a reduced level. 11% said they would stop buying sex. Almost 76% of those surveyed felt that the law had no impact on the ease with which they purchase sex.” (pp. 5-6) (emphasis added).
“On the first of the specific areas on which the Department is required to make an assessment, ie the impact of the offence on the safety and well-being of sex workers, we have concluded that, although the incidence of serious offending against sex workers is comparatively rare, there are other implications for well-being which the report describes in some detail.” (p. 6).
‘There is no clear evidence presented in the report to suggest that the legislation has had an impact on the levels of trafficking for sexual exploitation. The research found that the legislation had minimal effect on the demand for sexual services therefore it is difficult to see in what way it could impact on human trafficking for sexual exploitation.” (p. 7) (emphasis added).
“The Department tendered for external researchers to carry out the review and, following a public procurement process, Queen’s University Belfast was awarded the contract in October 2018. The specification for the review required that it include the following elements: Quantitative research into the numbers impacted by the legislation; Qualitative research on the impact of the legislation; Comparative analysis of the impact of the legislation pre and post its introduction in June 2015.” (p. 3).
“The Department is satisfied that the report provided by QUB meets the contract specification and provides findings which allow for a comprehensive assessment of the operation of the legislation, including the impact of the law on the two particular specifics targeted by section 15, namely the safety and wellbeing of sex workers and the extent to which the offence has operated to reduce human trafficking.” (p. 3)
(1) A person (A) commits an offence if A obtains sexual services from a person (B) in exchange for payment—
(a) if the payment is made or promised by A; or
(b) if the payment is made or promised by a third party and A knows or believes that the payment is made or promised by a third party.
(2) A person guilty of an offence under this Article is liable—
(a) on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or both;
(b) on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or a fine, or both.