Sex trafficking victims who were later prosecuted for brothel keeping will not be struck off the register, the Justice Department said.
Two or more victims of sexual exploitation who live together in a property from which they are being coerced into selling sex may be classified under the law as living in a brothel.
Since 2017, such victims have had to reckon with tougher penalties for brothel maintenance.
The government last year announced a plan to overturn criminal convictions of those involved in prostitution as part of what it calls a strategy to decriminalize those who sell sex and punish those who pay for it.
Attorney General Helen McEntee said the state plans to overturn more than 600 “sex selling” convictions. But those involved in prostitution, including victims of the sex trade, who have been prosecuted for running brothels will not now erase those crimes.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said: “A brothel maintenance conviction will not be overturned under the deletion initiative as it remains a criminal offence.”
Five years ago, the Oireachtas doubled the penalties for running a brothel to a maximum fine of €5,000 and 12 months in prison. Tougher penalties have been imposed under a new bill criminalizing sex buying.
Sex workers’ rights and advocacy groups have repeatedly criticized the law, claiming it penalizes sex workers who live together for safety reasons.
However, the department said there were “concerns” that decriminalizing brothel keeping “could create a loophole open to abuse by criminal gangs and others looking to profit from prostitution”.
Ugly Mugs, a safety program for sex workers, said it believes the Department of Justice should stamp out brothel crimes.
It said there were documented cases where Gardaí told the courts that the women prosecuted for running brothels were “victims of human trafficking”.
In 2016, four Romanian women were arrested for running a brothel in Galway.
A Garda investigating the case told Galway District Court at the time that the women had been “used and abused” by many people and were believed to be under the control of a pimp.
Ugly Mugs founder Lucy Smyth said: “The reality is that the Department of Justice has a plan to overturn some solicitation convictions but no brothel-keeping convictions and none of that has happened to date.
“I would like them to consider overturning brothel maintenance convictions and obtaining convictions as part of their overturning conviction plan to help victims of human trafficking, but they will not consider doing so.”
The 2017 law, including tougher measures against brothel keeping, is currently under review.
The Justice Department said the minister would “carefully consider all of the review’s recommendations and move forward with appropriate action.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/crime/victims-of-sex-trafficking-who-are-convicted-of-brothel-keeping-will-not-have-convictions-wiped-41993173.html Sex trafficking victims convicted of running a brothel are not exempted from their conviction