Buying sex has been outlawed since 2017 (Yui Mok/PA)
Buying sex has been outlawed since 2017 (Yui Mok/PA)

Robin Schiller

Gardai targeting people paying for sex have carried out operations across six counties.

Twenty-three people have been identified on suspicion of paying for sex during an intelligence investigation over two days last week.

A number of arrests were made and files will be submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

The two days of action were carried out across a number of garda divisions in Dublin as well as in counties in the south, north-east and west of the country.

Since 2017, buying sexual services – as well as the soliciting or purchase of sex from a trafficked person – have been offences under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act.

The operation carried out on November 21 and 22 was part of Operation Quest, an investigation led by the Garda National Protective Services Bureau.

Gardai said the purpose of the operation was to target “the demand for sexual services and to enforce legislation which criminalises the purchase of such services”.

Detectives from eight divisions assisted the national unit.

They included gardai from the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) North Central, which polices areas including Ballymun and Howth; DMR West, which includes the suburb of Blanchardstown; and DMR South Central, which incorporates most of the south inner city.

Operations were also carried out in Waterford, Cork city, Mayo, Sligo and Louth.

Gardai said the operation reinforced their efforts to target the demand for prostitution.

It followed recent attacks on sex workers in the capital.

“Combined with recent arrests arising from alleged attacks on individuals operating as persons in prostitution, this operation reinforces An Garda Siochana’s commitment to target the demand for prostitution and to protect vulnerable persons, including potential victims of human trafficking, involved in prostitution,” a spokesman said.

“This event represents the third national operation targeting the demand for prostitution undertaken by An Garda Siochana in 2019.

“It is intended that we will continue to undertake operations of this nature throughout 2020.”

In September, a similar operation was carried out across nine garda divisions by officers.

In total, 38 individuals were stopped and spoken to by gardai on suspicion of having paid for sex.

The days of action, between September 16 and 21, coincided with an European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (Empact) week of action targeting sexual exploitation.

Files have also been prepared in relation to that investigation, and the DPP will determine if criminal charges can be brought against those questioned.

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