A man has been convicted of purchasing sex in what is the first conviction under prostitution laws introduced in April 2017.
Bryan Mason, aged 65, with an address at Moatlands, Ratoath, Co Meath, was fined €200 in relation to the purchase of sexual services at West End Village, Blanchardstown, Dublin, on March 30, 2018.
It is the first conviction under Section 25 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, which was enacted on April 3, 2017, after being signed into law by then justice minister Frances Fitzgerald.
Mr Mason was charged with paying, giving, offering, or promising to pay or give money or any other form of remuneration or consideration for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with a prostitute.
The case, which appeared before Dublin District Court yesterday, followed an investigation by specialist officers attached to Operation Quest, based within the Garda National Protective Services Bureau.
The Oireachtas justice committee recommended the new offence in a report it published in June 2013.
Section 25 of the 2017 Act amended Section 7A of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993.
Ruhama, which works with women affected by prostitution, welcomed the conviction. Its CEO, Sarah Benson, said: “This case sends a clear message to Irish society that it is not acceptable to pay for access to another person’s body for sexual gratification.”
She said: “Evidence has shown that tackling ‘demand’ is a key mechanism for preventing the sexual exploitation of the most vulnerable in our society. While the sex trade continues to thrive due to buyers’ demand, the criminal gangs running it are profiting.”
A second case regarding the new offence is currently before the courts.
Kate McGrew, director of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland, said the man was caught procuring sex during a raid on a “so-called brothel”, where two or more sex workers work together.
“This case yet against highlights how the law is being used against workers who may want to work together for safety reasons,” she said. “This man was collateral damage in an ill-fated war to end demand.”
Ms McGrew said that, as a result of the case, sex workers will be forced to work alone, increasing their vulnerability.
“Working or living with another sex worker is illegal in Ireland,” she said. “Penalties doubled for workers working in pairs or groups when the law changed and this change in law happened quietly.