We deserve to be safe image

Yesterday a man who attacked and robbed two sex workers working together for safety was jailed for 10 years. 

Aoife Bloom, board member of SWAI says “The Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) welcomes the news that a man who violently attacked two members of our community was jailed for 10 years. We commend the bravery of these two workers in helping to bring this man to justice. However, we feel that this harrowing crime was entirely preventable. These violent assaults are the direct result of the introduction of client criminalisation and the increase in penalties against so-called brothel-keeping in 2017.”

“SWAI and other allies warned that these new laws would push sex workers away from Gardaí and drive the industry underground. Those who work together for safety risk arrest and jail time. Criminals know this and target sex workers precisely because the law forces sex workers to work alone to work legally. Those who are co-working are unlikely to contact the Gardaí if they are the victims of a crime. This makes us sitting ducks!”

“Thankfully the victims were not discouraged by these laws from reporting the assault in this particular instance. However we know that violent incidents like this have become more common since 2017 while the trust in the Gardaí necessary to report crimes like these has fallen. As a result successful prosecutions such as this one have become more difficult.”

Since 2017 there has been a 92% increase in violence against sex workers. There has also been a reduction in trust in the Gardaí. Less than 1% of sex workers feel comfortable in reporting crimes against them. The victims, in this case, were migrant workers, forced to work by economic circumstances. As we face into a recession, more and more people will enter this industry.” 

“We want to reduce the harm in sex work and ensure people in the industry are as safe as they can be. Sex work prohibitionists and misguided politicians who support our regressive laws say that sex work can never be safe. We beg of them to just listen to sex workers when we say that Ireland needs to decriminalise sex work so we can be safe. Their ideology is not more important than our safety.”

We want to work with Gardaí so that crimes like these can come to justice

On Monday Nolan Keown was sentenced to 14 years in prison after attacking, sexually assaulting and robbing two sex workers in 2016 and 2018. 

Kate McGrew, director of SWAI and current sex worker sais “These attacks occurred before and after the sex purchase law, we need to reiterate that this law does not deter men who know their behaviour is already criminal. A sex purchase ban does nothing to deter people who were already willing to break the law with actual violence. The law only gives these egregious humans more cover and brazenness to do so, as they know that workers are unfortunately less likely to engage with Gardai under this law.”

She continues “However we are very grateful for the work of An Garda Schoicana. We know that we can work together to keep perpetrators not only out of our industry and community but off the streets. 

The law was introduced with great fanfare but what it has resulted in is a 92% increase in violence against sex workers. In this instance, the change in the law did not deter Mr Keown from his violent acts as the occurred before and after the law. 

We are willing to and encouraging of all sex workers to work with Gardai to make Ireland safer for everyone. But the evidence shows that many more sex workers working together for safety have been arrested under our so-called brothel-keeping laws than criminals who have attacked sex workers. Last year two migrant women were prosecuted for working together for safety, one of which was pregnant.  Trust in Gardaí has dropped to less than 1% since the introduction of new penalties for working together for safety. 

Sex workers are not legally allowed to work together for safety. Attackers know that if workers are working together it is considered a brothel. Sex workers who work together are very unlikely to report to the Gardaí because they fear arrest. If a sex worker works alone this can make her more vulnerable to attacks. Sex workers working alone are reluctant to report to the Gardai because they fear that Gardaí will surveil them looking for their clients, or they won’t be believed. Criminals know this and target both workers alone or together.

We ask the government to make this work between sex workers and Gardai more realistic and effective by abandoning the law that works against these important efforts. Currently, Gardai efforts are forced by law to focus on policing and raids when their role with us should only be one of protection. We call for full decriminalisation of sex work as it has proven in New Zealand and Australia to vastly improve relationships between sex workers and police. We all deserve to be safe. 


#DecrimforSafety #SupportSafeSexWork