Changes to the law mean that paying for sex is illegal in Northern Ireland from today [Monday, June 1].
The new legislation, under section 15 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act 2015, was put forward by Tyrone’s Lord Maurice Morrow.
My hope is it will improve the lives of those trapped in slavery and send a clear signal to those who indulge this disgusting trade that it will not be tolerated - Lord Morrow
It means it is now an offence to obtain sexual services by paying or promising to pay anyone directly or through a third party, and is meant to protect those forced into sexual servitude.
Anyone who engages the services of a prostitute who has been forced to work as such, can be penalised, whether they know of the exploitation, or not.
Payment includes money, providing goods or services.
Anyone convicted under the new legislation could face up to one year’s imprisonment, a fine, or both.
It is not an offence to sell sexual services and the new law also removes criminality from loitering or soliciting in a public place. However, it remains an offence to keep or manage a brothel.
Lord Morrow said: “I’m immensely pleased that my Bill received such huge support in the Assembly.
“My hope is it will improve the lives of those trapped in slavery and send a clear signal to those who indulge this disgusting trade that it will not be tolerated.”
“Reports from countries such as Norway and Sweden where paying for sex has been banned, show the effectiveness of such a measure in addressing the levels of trafficking and prostitution.
“It shifts the blame away from the seller and onto the buyer,” he added.