Seanad Éireann - Volume 137 - 30 June, 1993

Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill, 1993: Committee Stage (Resumed).

SECTION 7.

Question again proposed: “That section 7 stand part of the Bill.”

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn): Section 7 replaces a number of existing provisions, some dating back to the last century, dealing with soliciting in the street by prostitues. The purpose behind the existing provisions is not to criminalise prostitution — that has never been an offence — but, to protect the public from the nuisance, annoyance and harassment we have all discussed that can be caused by soliciting in the streets.

I am not sure if Senator Taylor-Quinn wants to retain the existing offences — she has not put down an amendment to that effect — or whether she wants soliciting in public to be completely decriminalised. The effect is the same either way because the existing provisions are constitutionally flawed and unenforceable. She is, therefore, asking to remove all legal restraints on soliciting in public for the purposes of prostitution.

My views run directly counter to this — and I was glad to receive support for my proposals on Second Stage. I understand what the existing provisions were trying to achieve; my objection to them is not that they apply to prostitutes who solicit in public, but that they do not apply to prostitutes' clients and the Second Commission on the Status of Women agrees with this.

Section 7 is not a measure designed to suppress prostitution; I recognise that the criminal law can only achieve a certain amount in regulating sexual behaviour. It is designed, instead, solely to protect members of the public from the nuisance, harassment and intimidation which can be, and are, caused by soliciting in the street. It is not enough to say a person who is approached for the purposes of prostitution can simply ignore the solicitation and walk on. Anyone who thinks that does not know what it is like to be a woman intimidated by kerb crawlers or to be a resident in an area frequented by prostitutes and clients.

In addition to the support of the Second Commission on the Status of Women on this matter, the Government has the support of the Law Reform Commission which recommended such a provision in its report on vagrancy and related offences. To clarify something Senator Taylor-Quinn said in relation to the clients of prostitutes, pimps, touts and so on, they are all included in the Bill and I would not like the Senator to be under any mistaken impression in that regard.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 8.

Amendment No. 12 not moved.

Section 8 agreed to.

Sections 9 to 11, inclusive, agreed to.

NEW SECTION.

Ms Honan: I move amendment No. 13:

In page 7, before section 12, to insert the following new section:

[523] 12.—(1) A person who, being the publisher of any book, newspaper, magazine, leaflet, or other publication intended to be sold or distributed to the public, or any part of the public, publishes any advertisement therein, which advertises or promotes any premises or services in circumstances that give rise to the reasonable inference that the premises is a brothel or that the service is prostitution, shall be guilty of an offence.

(2) It shall be a defence in a prosecution under subsection (1) for the accused person to show:

(a) that he was not aware that the premises was a brothel or that the service was prostitution, and

(b) that he had reasonable grounds for believing that the advertisement related to some other lawful purpose.

(3) Without prejudice to the general provisions of subsection (1) where in a prosecution for an offence under that subsection it is proved that the premises advertised is or was a brothel, or that the service advertised is or was prostitution, it shall be presumed unless the contrary is shown that the publisher was so aware at the time of publication.

(4) A person shall be deemed to be a publisher for the purposes of subsection (1) if he publishes, or is knowingly connected with the publication of, or appears to the Court to be in effective control, either alone or with others of, the publication, and where any publication is done by a body corporate, the body corporate, and any director or officer or employee thereof who is aware of the publication, shall be deemed to be a publisher.

(5) A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) of this section shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or a fine of £10,000 or both.

[524] (6) In this section, ‘publication’ includes broadcast and cognate words shall be construed accordingly.

Yesterday, on Second Stage, many of us believed this Bill would impact on the women operating as prostitutes on the streets. The Second Commission on the Status of Women argued that pimps and people who are making money from women prostitutes and those who abuse prostitutes should be punished. Many people are profiting from the operation of brothels in Dublin and from the abuse of women involved in prostitution. I do not accept that we should punish women who are soliciting in the streets and women who come from the poor sections of the community, or that we should turn a blind eye to this type of behaviour. The real criminals of prostitution are those who make large financial gains from it.

The advertisements to which I referred are offensive to women. If we are to deal with prostitution realistically and fairly, we should accept this amendment. If we do not, we are avoiding our responsibility because we are encouraging people who are promoting prostitution, making money from it and organising and advertising it. The full rigours of the law should be applied to these people in the same way as it will be applied to prostitutes. Otherwise, we will be operating a two-tier system. We should put an end to prostitution which is the exploitation of women, If we are to be consistent, the Minister should accept my amendments.

Mr. Neville: I second the amendment. There is an inherent inconsistency in the fact that it is illegal to run a brothel, but it is not illegal to advertise one. If prostitution and brothels are to be legalised, it should be legal to advertise them. The Minister made the point that advertising assists the gardaí in their investigation and identification of these brothels. However, it is an insult to the gardaí to suggest that they have to use advertisements to obtain information about where these practices are carried out. Senator Norris lives next door to a brothel and he is aware of its existence. [525] Surely, the gardaí who are patrolling that area are also aware of its existence. Advertising is not necessary and it is an insult to the gardaí to suggest that they can only identify brothels through advertisements. For that reason, there is an inconsistency and it should be corrected.

Mr. Norris: I do not support this amendment. I will not discuss my reasons at length because I might bore the House. However, I will give one technical reason I do not support the amendment. It seems to be flawed even in its intention. For example, it says “any director or officer or employee thereof who is aware of the publication, shall be deemed to be a publisher”. This means that even the person who makes the tea in an office is a publisher and he or she could be sentenced to two years imprisonment or a fine of £10,000. Again, there is this presumption that someone is nefariously implicated in the situation. This is not a good principle in law.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: I support the amendment. This Bill must include a section prohibiting advertising for prostitution if it is to be complete. That section should cover the various ways of advertising, whether on local radio or in local newspapers. I suggest that the Minister should look at the situation which occurred in Grafton Street this afternoon — a young woman was handing out leaflets which advertised prostitution.

It is extremely important to consider the matter of advertising. It is recognised that there are gentlemen in this city and elsewhere who are making a lucrative living from women who are involved in prostitution. It is an abuse of women. Unless this Bill includes a prohibition on advertising, women will not be protected. It is important for the Minister to consider this matter.

Mr. Magner: Does the Senator have a leaflet?

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: No, but I know someone who does.

[526] Dr. Henry: I do not have a leaflet, but there are leaflets advertising massage parlours.

Whatever flaws there may be in the amendment, I find it extremely difficult to understand and share Senator Neville's feelings about inconsistencies and the fact that it is all right to advertise something which is illegal and for someone, the advertising agent, the publisher or the printer to make money out of advertising illegal activities. I wish to highlight the inconsistency of permitting this to happen.

Mr. Sherlock: The purpose of the amendment is to insert a new section. Members who spoke on this issue in the recent Dáil debate referred to magazines which were being published in the city of Dublin. If my memory is correct, they specifically discussed this issue.

Mr. Neville: That is correct.

Mr. Sherlock: Then how come the Minister has not taken this issue on board and made it an offence? Does the proposed amendment not meet that need?

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: This is the same amendment which was proposed by Senator Honan's party in the Dáil. When it was debated in the Dáil, I was persuaded by the arguments which were put forward; in principle, I decided it had merit. It is a long and complex amendment which requires more consideration than could be given to it in the time available to us.

I asked my officials after the Dáil debate to consult the draftsman on the technical aspects of the amendment and to see if it could be strengthened so that, for example, the apparently modern phenomenon of advertising contact telephone numbers could be covered by the amendment. I am glad to tell Senator Honan that consultations have already taken place with the draftsman. I hope I will be able to bring forward a suitable amendment on Committee Stage for inclusion in the Public Order Bill, which was published yesterday and the Second [527] Stage will be debated in the Dáil this week, and hopefully, it will be sent to the legislative committee on 13 July. This will give me, my officials and the draftsman time to tidy up the amendment so that it includes the spirit and the intention of what Senator Honan is proposing.

Ms Honan: I thank the Minister for her comments. My party appreciates the fact that she is taking this amendment on board. Otherwise, we would be making a nonsense of the law.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 12 agreed to.

SECTION 13.

Question proposed: “That section 13 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Norris: I had tabled my opposition to this section. However, I am waiving that opposition.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 14 and 15 agreed to.

Schedule agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.

Agreed to take remaining Stages today.