Law to stop predators seeking sex for rent may be shelved

Law to stop predators seeking sex for rent may be shelved

The proposed legislation was brought forward after the 'Irish Examiner' exposed a litany of instances where landlords were demanding sex from prospective tenants who could not find a place to live. Stock picture

An Oireachtas committee has recommended that a bill seeking to outlaw sex-for-rent arrangements will not proceed through the Dáil because of concerns with the legislation.

The Ban on Sex for Rent Bill 2022 was introduced in the Dáil in March by Social Democrats housing spokesman Cian O’Callaghan, in response to an investigation by the Irish Examiner into sex-for-rent arrangements.

He is now calling on Justice Minister Helen McEntee to tackle the issue.

The bill proposed a jail term of seven years and a fine of up to €50,000. The offences in the bill include sex-for-rent propositions, as well as the advertising of such propositions, and the hosting of such advertisements.

The committee said there was a lack of clarity in the definitions of several elements of the bill, “in particular in the drafting of core terms in relation to the criminal offences created by the bill”, adding that there are “significant legal faults within the bill as drafted”.

The committee said it could present challenges and difficulties if the legislation was brought before the courts, adding: “The bill could potentially be found to be unconstitutional.”

A report published by the committee on Wednesday noted that submissions regarding the bill highlighted the absence of other bills or general schemes to combat sex for rent practices. It added: “The Department of Justice confirmed that this behaviour is not currently a criminal offence.

"The Department pointed out that it would be important when drafting this bill to note that any agreement to pay for accommodation with sexual acts would not be enforceable under contract law.

“In addition, they highlighted that non-consensual acts are already offences within law, as Sexual Offences legislation makes it clear that consent must be freely and voluntarily given and that sex without consent is counted as rape, which can be punished with a conviction up to life imprisonment.”

Social Democrats TD Cian O'Callaghan. File picture: Damien Storan
Social Democrats TD Cian O'Callaghan. File picture: Damien Storan

However, the report said that submissions pointed out that stigma which remains around offences including rape and prostitution “could deter people from reporting instances of sex-for-rent if these offences remained the only way through which to prosecute such crimes”.

According to the report, the Attorney General, Paul Gallagher, was concerned that the bill was not precise enough in its “definition of terms used and the proposed boundaries of the offence”.

The report added that Mr Gallagher was concerned that the bill “does not consider how the new offences it would create will interact with existing sexual offences or domestic violence legislation.”

Referring to the Department of Justice, the report added: “They [the department] stated that further consideration and legal advice is needed before recommending the best legislative approach for this issue of sex-for-rent, but that it may be preferable to address the issue through amendment the existing offence of payment for sexual acts for the purposes of prostitution.”

One case highlighted by the Irish Examiner involved accommodation in Clare being offered online to a “slim Ukrainian” woman, with an expectation of sex “after a while”.

The landlord demanded a photo from a prospective tenant and refused to reveal the exact location of the property or send photos of it if a photo was not sent to him first.

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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