The situation in Ireland

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Buying sex is not illegal in Ireland. Neither is selling sexual services. The law protects these transactions as agreements between consenting adults.

Some activities associated with prostitution are outlawed, however, as public order offences. These include curb-crawling, soliciting in public, loitering in public places, brothel-keeping and living off immoral earnings.

While it is illegal to have sex with someone younger than 17, the courts have ruled that being mistaken about the age of the young person may be used as a defence.

In 2008, it became illegal to buy sex from someone who had been trafficked. This was done through the Criminal Justice (Human Trafficking) Act 2008. Section 5 of the Act provides for penalties for people who buy sex from a ‘trafficked person’.

However, a ‘trafficked person’ is defined as ‘a person in respect of whom a trafficking crime has been committed’, and there is concern that this may be interpreted as requiring a conviction of a person for the trafficking offence before somebody could be prosecuted for buying sex from the trafficked person.

Also, the Act does not provide for ‘strict liability’. This means that the purchaser of sex can use the defence that he did not know that the person from whom he was purchasing sex had been trafficked.

In contrast, the equivalent law in the UK, the Policing and Crime Bill, imposes strict liability: the purchaser of sex from a trafficked person cannot use the defence that he did not know that the person from whom he bought sex had been trafficked.

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