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

We deserve to be safe

We all expect laws to keep us safe, but the laws around sex work make Ireland more dangerous. 

Kate McGrew, director of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) and current sex worker says, “SWAI are happy to hear the news that a serial rapist was handed a 20-year prison sentence today. This man systematically targeted migrant sex workers in the wake of the change in the law around sex work in 2017. 

SWAI was the initial contact by the sex workers involved in this serial rapist, who was targetting Czech sex workers. We helped the workers to report the rapist to Garda and supported them throughout the trial. As a front-line organisation, which is the only sex worker-led organisation in Ireland, many sex workers turn to SWAI to support them, when they are a victim of a crime.”

She continues “It is very difficult for victims of rape to get justice through the criminal justice and have their rapist convicted. It is even more so for sex workers, who are often reluctant to go to the police to report sexual violence. Sex workers fear they will not be taken seriously because of their job. Since the introduction of client criminalisation or the “Nordic Model”, less than 1% of sex workers report crime to the Gardaí according to Ugly Mugs, a safety screening app for sex workers to report dangerous clients.

Today is a success, as sex workers were able to get justice, despite the fact that they have very little trust in Gardai. In the last two years of client criminalisation, there has been a 98% increase in violent crimes against sex workers. 

We in SWAI warned that this increase in violence would happen in the wake of the introduction of client criminalisation. The voices of current sex workers and their allies were ignored when this law was introduced. 

Policymakers and misinformed politicians need to listen to SWAI and current sex workers during next year’s review of the law in 2020. There is an epidemic of violence against sex workers made much worse by client criminalisation. The conviction today was an exception, rather than the rule, when it comes to sex workers finding justice. 

We want to thank the women for coming forward despite a climate that does not encourage them to do so. The streets are safer thanks to these sex worker’s bravery. As always we are here for any sex worker who needs us, regardless of circumstance. Please call us on 085 824 9305.”

#DecrimforSafety #SupportSafeSexWork.

Justice for sex workers is rare but there is hope, says Sex Workers Alliance Ireland

Today the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court found a man guilty of serial violent sexual assaults on sex workers in 2017. 

Kate McGrew, director of SWAI and current sex worker says “We all expect laws to keep us safe. Before the law introducing criminalisation of the purchase of sex in 2017, sex workers and our allies warned misinformed politicians and the state that this will see an increase in violence against sex workers. Since the law changed we have seen a 92% increase in violent crimes against sex workers.

She continued “As the first point of contact for these victims we encouraged and supported them through this process while liaising with the Gardaí. As a result of the bravery of these women, this man has now been prosecuted. We are heartened to see that our work and liaising with Gardaí have resulted in a conviction. It is all too rare for sex workers to get justice.”

“When people are attacked or assaulted one of the first steps they will take is reporting to the Gardaí. When you are a sex worker you have to weigh this up against the threat of deportation, future surveillance or even mockery by the Gardaí. Many workers never report assaults and have a long-standing mistrust of the Gardaí. Sex workers must feel safe to report without scrutiny or judgement on their livelihood and residence.

Today’s case gives us and sex workers working in Ireland hope that they can report Gardaí and find paths to justice. We are heartened to see stretched Garda resources being used to prosecute those who are attacking vulnerable women. We reiterate our call to decriminalise sex work so that workers feel safe in reporting to the Gardaí. We call for the end of criminalisation of the purchase of sex and women working together in pairs for safety. As always we are here for any sex worker who needs us, regardless of circumstance. Please call us on 085 824 9305.”

#DecrimforSafety #SupportSafeSexWork.