The Turn Off The Red Light campaign in 2012 calling for criminalising the purchase of sex

Last Friday, the Leinster Leader newspaper reported that two female sex workers, one of whom is pregnant, had been jailed for nine months by Judge Desmond Zaidan at Naas District Court the previous day.

They had been charged with keeping or running a brothel – an offence under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993 which was maintained when the Act was amended in 2017, despite the then Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald being called on by several politicians to remove it.

The newspaper reported that the court heard gardai raided the Newbridge apartment in which the women lived last November after it had been under surveillance for “some time”.

In a previous court appearance, the court heard the raid was part of An Garda Siochána’s Operation Quest.

There were no clients at the property when the house was raided.

The newspaper reported:

No significant money was found at the scene either.

Was business that bad?” Judge Desmond Zaidan asked.

“It was early in the night,” Sgt Jacob told the court.

…Their solicitor told the court that the women hope to return to their native Romania once the trial is concluded and to avoid bringing any embarrassment to their families. And gardai were satisfied that this was the case.

Their solicitor said that the women had a sum of money available that could be paid to a charity.

But Judge Desmond Zaidan was not inclined to give them this opportunity. “They weren’t forced into this position.”

The newspaper reported that the woman who is pregnant has lodged an appeal and has been released on bail.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 was put forward to reform Ireland’s laws regarding prostitution and it was signed into law in 2017.

In relation to the law on brothel keeping, a debate in the Dáil in November 2016 heard Green Party TD Catherine Martin say:

“What the Government is proposing is to criminalise the buyer and remove one of the criminal sanctions against solicitation but also to create a new solicitation crime and leave brothel keeping as a criminal act. The Nordic approach has received a significant level of criticism, particularly when It comes to the health and the safety of sex workers.

“Significant questions remain about the Nordic model. The Green Party’s key concern with it is that a sufficient evaluation has not been carried out upfront to show whether the changes brought in had any impact on the health and well being of sex workers. Stories are emerging of sex workers driven further underground and, therefore, out of safety in order to protect the identities of their clients. The latter means that they place themselves at even greater risk.

“The UK is currently revisiting its approach. The select Home Affairs Committee has said that the Home Office should immediately introduce legislation to allow for solicitation by sex workers and to change brothel-keeping laws to allow workers share premises so that they are safer.”

Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall said:

When two or more prostitutes choose to work from the same location for safety, they should not be prosecuted for brothel keeping unless there is clear evidence that one is profiting from the work of others.

“As the law still stands, if two prostitutes work together, they can be accused of brothel-keeping. Are we going to force a situation where women working in the sex trade will be forced to work alone in order to get around this issue and to avoid prosecution under this legislation, obviously putting themselves at further risk? There are significant issues here.”

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger said:

We will also table an amendment to exclude the criminalisation of two women working together in a brothel, not pimping, one not benefiting from the proceeds of the earnings of the other. Sex workers should not be subject to harassment and prosecution and it is utterly backward that the Tánaiste has not taken these amendments on board.”

Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly said:

“The work by the barrister, Michael Lynn, and commissioned by Sex Workers Alliance Ireland, SWAI, is an incredibly well-grounded, academic and research-based piece of work in this area. He evolved into a position of coming to the conclusion that the Bill would violate the human rights of sex workers.

“His key points on that were, first, the lack of assessment of the real impact of the Swedish model, the fact that the penalties against brothel keeping and so on are likely to contravene the human rights of sex workers, and he was very critical of the fact that there is no review in the legislation.”

In December 2016, Ms Fitzgerald told the Select Committee on Justice and Equality debate, when the 2015 Bill was at committee stage:

“The effect of the amendments, in reality, would be to decriminalise brothels in certain circumstances. I am concerned that decriminalisation of brothel-keeping would create a legal loophole that would be ripe for exploitation by the organised crime gangs involved in the trafficking and exploitation of women involved in prostitution.

“Women would come under pressure to claim that they were working independently when that was not the case and the Garda would be limited in the actions it could take to close brothels and disrupt the activities of pimps and criminal gangs.”

Further to this…

Solicitor Wendy Lyon has tweeted her thoughts…

Related: Brothel laws criminalising sex workers: a feature, not a bug (Wendy Lyon, Feminist Ire)

Previously: A ‘Mass Surveillance On Sex Workers’? (April 2019)

Stopping At Red (September 2012)

Turn Off The Red, Blue And White Light (November 2013)

“Prostitution Is Messy, It’s Regrettable But It’s A Fact Of Life” (November 2014)

Hoor We To Judge? (April 2017)

41 thoughts on “Red Lights

  1. kellMA

    “They weren’t forced into this position”. That statement makes my blood boil. Honestly, I cannot see how any woman would want to do this if she had another choice/if her mental health and self esteem was not so on the floor that she didnt see she deserved something better.

    1. Mickey Twopints

      You honestly can’t see a woman (or a man come to that) choosing to engage in sex work purely for the financial rewards?

        1. Mickey Twopints

          It’s a fairly commonly used and innocuous term, why do you take exception to it?

          1. kellMA

            Mickey Twopoints, are you telling me that a well adjusted and not underprivileged person would chose a career where they got 20-50euro for putting someones appendage in their mouth? Where the fear of a looney deciding to wallop them over the head or not even pay them that miserly amount is an accepted part of their “career”? Where the very point of their career is to rent out their body to be used. Hey careers adivsor id like to find a way to be able to put myself out there to be used and get a few quid for it. ideally one with a DB pension thanks and one where my children will want for nothing. … Get a grip.
            People who come up with these financial arguments are usually service-users who don’t want to admit to themselves that they are taking advantage of someone.

          2. Mickey Twopints

            That’s quite the reaction to a perfectly reasonable question. It reminds me of the sort of explosive response we came to expect from members of the clergy.

          3. kellMA

            Perhaps. Im an atheist who has a problem with humans degrading or participating in the degradation of other humans.

          4. Cian

            kellMa, there are many, many, many other jobs that “a well adjusted and not underprivileged person” would chose to *avoid* as a career.

            But that doesn’t mean that they can avoid these jobs, and may end up doing them. and they do them to get paid. So they can support themselves and their families.

          5. kellMA

            @ Cian. I completely agree. We all started in jobs that we aspired to move on from. Some of us did and some of us didn’t. But getting stuck in a minimum wage job where the hours stink is, for me, not comparable to this.
            No one should feel they have no choice but to make their living in an industry where the threat of violence is part and parcel of being there

          6. postmanpat

            Mickey Twopints. It because kellMA cant make a decent argument and instead picks apart individual words out of context. I know what you meant by “rewards”. As for “not forced into the position” its probably true. Fair play to them, I hope most of the money they earned got saved up somewhere and not stolen by the scummy police. It seems like a relatively sophisticated operation. who knows ?they probably had a rotation of regular johns that were nice and rich. The industry should be legalized, taxed, licensed and sex workers should enjoy all the police protection any other legal worker has. Then id 100% support crackdowns on unlicensed brothels. Until then, to hell with all the hypocritical fuzz and judges in this country they are making the business dangerous. They use sex workers just as mush as civilians so the moral argument about obtaining services is irrelevant . Its a cash business mostly and that the real reason legalization is held up. but really. every cash business lies about income when it comes to tax.

          7. Termagant

            Anyone, and I mean anyone, even Adolf Hitler himself, could get a job working a till at Dunnes. If they’re doing this instead and there’s no coercive element then they’re doing it by choice because it pays better. Maybe some people naturally have less appendage-revulsion than others. Some people work knee-deep in human excrement all day, you wouldn’t catch me doing it but they manage.

  2. Truthful Ulsterman

    Michael Lynn – Dennis O’Brien’s pet silk
    Paid for by a group calling themselves sex workers Ireland

    Why is Care Daly pretending that Dennis O’Brien’s pet silk has any credibility?

  3. Truthful Ulsterman

    Michael Lynn – Dennis O’Brien’s Go to Guy for defamation cases against newspapers
    Paid for by a group calling themselves sex workers Ireland

    Why is Care Daly claiing that Lynn ‘…evolved into a position of coming to the conclusion…’ (WTF) instead of simply producing the report that he was paid to produce.

    1. Hodor

      He wasn’t paid. The opinion was organised through PILA’s Pro Bono Referral Scheme.
      When has he acted for Denis O’Brien?

  4. stephen c

    this is just more apologist nonsense. if this was some Romanian man keeping a brothel the exact same people would be out for blood, this entire scenario just consistently believes that women have absolutely no active or decisive part in the sex trade and are all harmless victims due to mental health, drug issues or ‘low self esteem’ as a commenter above suggested. They got off lightly and will return to Romania, all above board.

  5. Gabby

    How did the young sex workers from Roumania get to Newbridge? Were they there without help from other people, especially males?

    1. Cian

      They probably flew. Ryanair flies 5-days-a-week.
      Ryanair has a some women pilots. So there is a small-ish chance it was a female pilot. But yeah, a male probably flew them in

    2. kellMA

      Oh they probably flew in themselves. They probably just moved their job to somewhere that pays better and where the condition are a bit less dangerous. Over there a lot of them literally stand in ditches at the side of motorways . They have probably been doing this since they were 14….

      1. Gabby

        The newspaper report said:
        “No significant money was found at the scene either.
        “Was business that bad?” Judge Desmond Zaidan asked.
        “It was early in the night,” Sgt Jacob told the court.”
        This could mean that their earnings from previous nights went to or were taken by a third party i.e. the two sex workers may not have been independent entrepreneurs. They didn’t get to the town of Newbridge without knowledge from other people in some sort of network.

        1. postmanpat

          Littlefinger hired some sellswords to escort the women safely through the bandit infested countryside , mostly Lannister and Bolton turncloaks, blood up after the recent battles and out for a bit of raping.

        2. Termagant

          Or it could mean they put it in the fupping bank

          And Newbridge isn’t a shady highly exclusive enclave of well-connected pimps and johns, it’s just off the M7 near Naas.

          Do you think Romanian women are some dimwitted sub-species who don’t know how to go from place A to place B without assistance? That’s either very racist or very sexist of you and possibly both

          1. Gabby

            If money was put in the bank, the gardai can follow the money. The newspaper quoted doesn’t say what English language standards the two women have, so their ability to negotiate Irish geography can be queried. They could only have decided, if in fact it was their decision, to locate in Newbridge if told about Newbridge by a third party. I disagree with the quoted remark of the judge who acidly asked a guard, “Was business that bad?”

          2. eoin

            Gabby, the money was likely transferred by Western Union to Romania every morning. Two young Romanian women. Who do think was protecting them and without protection, they wouldn’t last 24 hours without being robbed, trafficked or pimped? Who was doing the cash transfers? Who was putting their profiles on the Escorts website which is 100% linked to UglyMugs which is linked to an organised crime group, which I now believe is based in Spain. Why a 3-bedroom property?

            Well done Judge Zaidan, the swarthy boyos in the black leather jackets and 10-year old BMW 5-series have just found out the law will be enforced.

          3. Termagant

            The guards didn’t say “these women have no money at all”. They said there was no money found at the scene.

            Why would you assume they can’t speak English? Vast numbers of mainland Europeans can speak English, it’s the lingua franca of the continent and the Union.

            “They could only have decided, if in fact it was their decision, to locate in Newbridge if told about Newbridge by a third party”
            Like daft.ie, maybe? Again, Newbridge is not a secret. I lived in Leatherhead outside London for 6 months once upon a time, I didn’t mean to move to Leatherhead, I didn’t know there was a place called Leatherhead, it’s a ridiculous name for a place (but still a better name than the nearby Maidenhead). I flew into London, booked into a hostel and then looked online to find somewhere to live. Turns out: there was a place called Leatherhead where there was a flat. So there I lived. There is no reason whatsoever to believe these women have been trafficked.

            Frankly Gabby I think you WANT these women to have been trafficked, as if some element of your personal worldview is threatened by the idea that someone might choose to be a prostitute.

  6. Sweden

    So much ignorance comment here

    You people don’t know anything but talk anyway is this what they say when they call Irish “Paddy thick”?

    1. Mickey Twopints

      I ignorance often. My day isn’t really complete unless I’ve ignoranced at least 20 times, but it’s usually more than 20 to be honest.

  7. Ian-O

    No up to date with any of this but my understanding was that the users and not the workers themselves would be criminalized but of course I then note the whole ‘brothel keeping’ bit.

    Its a distasteful business indeed but surely we should be treating them as either victims if trafficked or at the very least stick to only prosecuting the ‘Johns’ who frequent them?

    Am I being naive here – I hope not, I just find the idea that the two women were jailed for this for 9 months to be quite over the top. But then I have read plenty about this ‘Judge’ and he seems dodgy AF.

    I always drive way under the limit around the Naas area so I don’t ever find myself in front of this lunatic.

    1. Cian

      “I always drive way under the limit around”
      hmmm… sounds suspiciously like kerb-crawling to me.

    2. Rob_G

      “I always drive way under the limit around the Naas area so I don’t ever find myself in front of this lunatic.”

      – hey, it looks like his judgments are having the desired effects.

      (I don’t know about this case, but I tend to agree with Judge Zaidan 100% whenever I come across his rulings on road traffic offences in the media)

      1. Ian-O

        He sounds like he is incredibly overly sensitive in court.

        Having been in court for reasons other than being a defendant, I have always noted that most judges appear to be rather calm and measured, but he sounds like he is rather emotional.

        So no, I’d rather not be in front of him, although considering the only 2 penalty points I ever had expired a decade ago, I think my chances of running into him in court are slim to none.

  8. eoin

    Bodger linking to an Uglymugs.ie tweet?

    Who are UglyMugs? Have a look at the North’s inquiry into sex work which led to their criminalisation of the purchase of sex (in 2014, mirrored in the Republic in 2017).

    “Mr Wells: It is important that we establish the nature of UglyMugs.ie. I understand that your office is in London.

    Ms Smith: I do not have an office.

    Mr Wells: But you are based in London.

    Ms Smith: I do not want to answer any personal questions because of the security threats.

    Mr Wells: There are nine million people in London. I think that it will be reasonably safe for you to tell us where the office — not you, personally — is based.

    Ms Smith: There is no office for UglyMugs.ie.

    Mr Wells: OK, so there is no office. Who funds the work of UglyMugs.ie?

    Ms Smith: There is no funding. We do not have things like offices; it is a website.

    Mr Wells: You have a website, which is quite detailed. Who funds that?

    Ms Smith: A website, as you may know, is a very cheap thing to run. At the moment, I fund the website personally.

    Mr Wells: OK. Who is Audrey Rita Campbell?”

    http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/assembly-business/official-report/committee-minutes-of-evidence/session-2013-2014/january-2014/human-trafficking-and-exploitation-further-provisions-and-support-for-victims-bill-uglymugsie/

  9. Darren

    The points being made here are slightly odd. Doubting why someone would live as they choose. That is scary. If anything Wendy lyon made sense so why not comment on the ideas she raised? Maturity is something that provides its own dignity and we can all hope that irish people are not as the Swedish man above suggests. Fair play broadsheet for sharing.

  10. Vanessa the Holy Face of Frilly Keane

    This whole thread is really unsettling and uncomfortable to digest

    My initial instinct was
    DeZzie -no surprise

    But I’ve gotten to here
    And wondering if I’m the only one thinking that GSOC or any of the Garda Internal oversight checks better standard of policing promised by Commissioner Drew Harris are taking a look at the investigation behind the convictions

  11. SOQ

    Some people are forced into it and most are women but to suggest that every sex worker is not by choice is- ridiculous.There is a lot of money to be made.

    I am rentboy.com myself. A niche market but still pays a few bills.

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