From 1st June, 2015 a new law in Northern Ireland criminalising the purchase of sex will come into
effect. This will make Northern Ireland the only region of the United Kingdom to adopt the repressive Nordic model, after a similar bill failed to pass in Scotland in 2013.
The bill was passed in Northern Ireland's Stormont assembly by 81 votes to 10 last October despite research commissioned by the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland that concluded that Northern Ireland's adoption of the Nordic Model would not be in
sex workers' best interests.
As we reported last year, the research from Queen's University found that trafficking victims account for less than 3% of people working in the sex trades, fewer than 10 people. More than a third of clients surveyed believed that paying for sex was
already illegal. Of the 171 sex workers questioned, less than 2% supported criminalisation of clients, 61% saying that it would make them less safe.
A press release from the Northern Ireland Executive was published on 20th May. It said that:
Under section 15 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015, it will become an offence to obtain sexual services in exchange for payment, either by paying, or promising to pay, any
person directly, or through a third party.
This replaces the offence of paying for the sexual services of a prostitute subjected to force, where it is currently unlawful to pay for the sexual services of a prostitute who has been exploited by a third party using force or threats. This offence,
which is an offence whether or not the person buying the services knows of the exploitation, carries a maximum penalty of a level 3 (£1,000) fine.
Under the new law, it will be illegal to obtain, for payment, sexual services from anyone, whether or not there is exploitation. The sexual services which will be illegal must involve the buyer being physically present with the seller and there must
either be physical sexual contact or the seller must perform sexual acts where they touch themselves for the sexual gratification of the buyer.
Under the legislation, payment includes money or the provision of goods or services.
Anyone convicted under the new legislation can be sentenced to a maximum of one year's imprisonment, or a fine, or both.
It is not an offence to sell sexual services. The new law also removes criminality from loitering or soliciting for the purposes of offering services as a prostitute in a street or public place. It remains an offence to keep or manage a brothel.
(a) A makes or promises payment for the sexual services of a prostitute (B),
(b) a third person (C) has engaged in exploitative conduct of a kind likely to induce or encourage B to provide the sexual services for which A has made or promised payment, and
(c) C engaged in that conduct for or in the expectation of gain for C or another person (apart from A or B).
(2) The following are irrelevant—
(a) where in the world the sexual services are to be provided and whether those services are provided,
(b) whether A is, or ought to be, aware that C has engaged in exploitative conduct.
(3) C engages in exploitative conduct if—
(a) C uses force, threats (whether or not relating to violence) or any other form of coercion, or
(b) C practises any form of deception.
(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
(1) gain means—
(a) any financial advantage, including the discharge of an obligation to pay or the provision of goods or services (including sexual services) gratuitously or at a discount; or
(b) the goodwill of any person which is or appears likely, in time, to bring financial advantage.
(2) prostitute, prostitution means--
a person (A) who, on at least one occasion and whether or not compelled to do so, offers or provides sexual services to another person in return for payment or a promise of payment to A or a third person;
and prostitution is to be interpreted accordingly.
Note on the law as regards to British Residents abroad
Note that although the Section 53A offence of paying for sex specifically includes the provision of sex abroad, the payment or promise of payment must be be made in Britain.
Section 72 describes how the law applies outside of the UK and Schedule 2 lists the clauses that worldwide UK enforcement applies to. Thankfully the paying for sex clause 53A is not listed.
So the jurisdiction of Section 53A remains payment/promise of payment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (but fulfilling the deal anywhere in the world)
Similarly the Section 52 & 53 offences are restricted to people controlling or inciting prostitution abroad whilst residing in the UK.
72 Offences outside the United Kingdom
(1) Subject to subsection (2), any act done by a person in a country or territory outside the United Kingdom which—
(a) constituted an offence under the law in force in that country or territory, and
(b) would constitute a sexual offence to which this section applies if it had been done in England and Wales or in Northern Ireland,
constitutes that sexual offence under the law of that part of the United Kingdom.
(2) Proceedings by virtue of this section may be brought only against a person who was on 1st September 1997, or has since become, a British citizen or resident in the United Kingdom.
(3) An act punishable under the law in force in any country or territory constitutes an offence under that law for the purposes of this section, however it is described in that law.
(4) Subject to subsection (5), the condition in subsection (1)(a) is to be taken to be met unless, not later than rules of court may provide, the defendant serves on the prosecution a notice—
(a) stating that, on the facts as alleged with respect to the act in question, the condition is not in his opinion met,
(b) showing his grounds for that opinion, and
(c) requiring the prosecution to prove that it is met.
(5) The court, if it thinks fit, may permit the defendant to require the prosecution to prove that the condition is met without service of a notice under subsection (4).
(6) In the Crown Court the question whether the condition is met is to be decided by the judge alone.
(7) Schedule 2 lists the sexual offences to which this section applies.
SCHEDULE 2 Sexual offences to which section 72 applies England and Wales
1 In relation to England and Wales, the following are sexual offences to which section 72 applies—
(a) an offence under any of sections 5 to 15 (offences against children under 13 or under 16);
(b) an offence under any of sections 1 to 4, 16 to 41, 47 to 50 and 61 where the victim of the offence was under 16 at the time of the offence;
(c) an offence under section 62 or 63 where the intended offence was an offence against a person under 16;
(d) an offence under—
(i) section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978 (c. 37) (indecent photographs of children), or
(ii) section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (c. 33) (possession of indecent photograph of child),
in relation to a photograph or pseudo-photograph showing a child under 16.