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Ireland: Garda strategy focuses on men soliciting prostitutes

Publish Date: 14 Jun 2011
Source: Irish Examiner
By: Cormac O'Keeffe

MORE than 60 men have been arrested and convicted for soliciting street prostitutes following a major undercover operation, the Irish Examiner can reveal.

It is the first large-scale crackdown on users of street prostitutes and marks a significant departure in Garda practice, which has traditionally focused on prostitutes.

As part of the Garda strategy, prostitutes arrested or dealt with during the operation are referred to support groups in a bid to get them out of the sex trade. The operation, code-named Kerb, has been running in the Dublin North Central Division since October.

Gardaí in Limerick are considering replicating it and other divisions may also examine it.

Ruhama, which works with prostitutes, welcomed the new "zero tolerance" approach on buyers and said it would have "a big impact in reducing street-based prostitution". It called on the Garda Commissioner to consider widening it through the country.

The operation targeted an area in Dublin’s north-west inner city, which has a tradition of street prostitution dating back centuries.

"The main driver for the operation was feedback from neighbourhood policing — that women going about their daily business were being accosted by men in cars and approached for sex," said Inspector Tony Healy of Bridewell Garda Station.

He said he devised an operational strategy, backed by Superintendent Jim Hynes and Chief Supt Pat Leahy. But he said there was a clear change of focus: "Previous operations focused on the arrest of prostitutes. The main goal of this was to prosecute offenders, the clients. This was an arrest and charge policy."

He said they put two to three undercover female officers, dressed in "normal casual attire", in the area, supported by plain clothes officers and uniformed gardaí.

"They were propositioned by males in cars and were subsequently arrested," said Insp Healy.

He said since October they have arrested 64 men and 63 have been convicted, with an arrest warrant for another. Most offenders were given the Probation Act as first-time offenders and ordered to pay a fine to Ruhama or Chrysalis, another support group.

The men came from all social backgrounds, both Irish and foreign, and some were family men.

Insp Healy said they diverted seven prostitutes to Ruhama.

In the last two operations, no arrests were made and none of the 64 men had reoffended.

Copyright © 2011 Examiner Publications (Cork) Limited