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Minister McEntee announces initiative to expunge previous convictions for ‘sale of sex’

  • Initiative will support victims of trafficking and exploitation in rebuilding their lives
  • Expungement of over 600 convictions a significant step in recognising and responding to the needs of vulnerable victims


25 April 2021


The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, today announced an initiative to expunge previous convictions for ‘sale of sex’, or prostitution offences. This is a significant step in recognising and responding to the needs of victims of sex trafficking, and those forced to provide sexual services.


It is generally recognised that prostitution is inherently exploitative of vulnerable persons, mainly women and girls, and that many people are forced into prostitution through trafficking, drug addiction, homelessness and poverty.


The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 removed those who offer their services as a prostitute from the existing offences of soliciting for the purpose of prostitution and criminalised the purchase of sex. This was done to provide additional protection to people involved in prostitution, especially those who are vulnerable and victims of human trafficking.


While it has not been an offence to sell sex in Ireland since 2017, for those who have succeeded in exiting prostitution, previous convictions can be a significant obstacle as they attempt to move on with their lives.


Minister McEntee said,


“I hope this initiative will bring some relief to those who are looking to leave that aspect of their lives behind.


“Given what we know about the levels of exploitation and human trafficking in the sex trade, it is very likely that many of those convicted in the past fall into the exploited category for a number of reasons, including because they were victims of trafficking. These vulnerable victims should also benefit from the legislative change regarding the sale of sex and be able to move forward and rebuild their lives. 


“Officials in my Department will be drafting the necessary legislative amendments to provide for the expungement.”


The focus of the law dealing with prostitution shifted in 2017 when new legislation criminalising the purchaser of sex - rather than the seller - came into effect.


The intention is that this proposed new expunging provision will be expressly limited to those convicted under section 7 or 8 of the Act of 1993 on the basis they were offering their services as a prostitute to another person.


In total, An Garda Síochána have identified 607 convictions to be expunged.


This comprises 402 convictions recorded for soliciting or importuning for the purposes of prostitution, contrary to section 7 and 205 convictions for loitering for the purposes of prostitution – failing to comply with a direction of a Garda, contrary to Section 8.


An Garda Síochána are satisfied that there are no other underlying or related offences involved in these cases that would caution against expungement.


The Minister concluded,


“The erasing of all such convictions, and the expunging of the resulting criminal records, will send an immensely important message to those in the sex trade.


“It will firmly assert our national policy position that the focus of An Garda Síochána’s attention is not directed towards those in the sex trade, who are exploited and victimised, but rather towards those who are responsible for exploiting them and those who purchase and demand services.”




Note for editors


Part 4 (sections 25 to 27) of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 criminalises the purchase of sexual services in the context of prostitution while removing those who provide sexual services through prostitution from the existing offences of soliciting or loitering for the purpose of prostitution. The Minister is now looking to expunge previous convictions under sections 7 and 8 of the Act of 1993 as they no longer apply to a person offering his or her services as a prostitute.