Expunging Of Criminal Records for “Sale of Sex” Cautiously Welcomed

Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) Welcomes Minister McEntee’s Initiave to Expunge 607 Convictions for the Sale of Sex but says it does not go far enough. 

The Criminal Law Sexual Offenses Act 2017 criminalised the purchase of sex and nearly tripled penalties for sex workers working in pairs or groups. In the late stages of the passing of the bill SWAI managed to succeed in getting decriminalisation of outdoor workers as an amendment, despite it not being the original intention of the law.

Kate McGrew, Director SWAI: “We can assume that the convictions that are being overturned are instead for outdoor workers, and not for workers sharing a workspace, as under this law they face tripled penalties, and potential jail time, We have seen workers serving sentences under this law since its inception in 2017. However outdoor workers are criminalised in a number of other ways, including under COVID regulations.

For sex workers who would like to move on to other work, a criminal record is a major obstacle in doing so. SWAI demands that criminal records for brothel-keeping also be expunged, as this is defined as the criminalisation of merely co-working, and this is where the majority of sex worker convictions have occurred since 2017. This law continues to force us to work alone if we are to work legally.” 

SWAI advocates for full decriminalisation of the sex industry, including a reversal of client criminalisation, which criminalises our income and pushes us deeper into precarity,  in order to remove barriers to justice. Worldwide evidence has shown that this is the best legislative model for best outcomes for a marginalised and diverse population.”