NI: Bid to overturn sex purchase laws to proceed to judicial leave hearing

Ciarán Moynagh of McLernon Moynagh Solicitors
Ciarán Moynagh of McLernon Moynagh Solicitors

A legal bid to overturn the criminalisation of buying sex in Northern Ireland could proceed to a judicial leave hearing before the end of June.

Sex workers’ rights advocate Laura Lee is challenging provisions of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015.

The legislation was introduced as a private member’s bill by DUP MLA Lord Morrow and approved by MLAs in December 2014.

At a hearing in March, proceedings were adjourned to allow consideration of the correct respondent(s) in the case.

The Department of Justice was originally named as the respondent, but papers were subsequently served on the Northern Ireland Assembly owing to the legislation’s origins in the chamber.

The legal proceedings were described as being “in uncharted waters”.

Solicitor Ciarán Moynagh of McLernon Moynagh Solicitors told Irish Legal News an agreed position was put to the High Court at a hearing before the senior judicial review judge yesterday.

The Assembly or the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission will not play a role in proceedings and the case will progress to a contested leave hearing with the Department of Justice remaining as a respondent and the Office of First Minister and deputy First Minister being added as a respondent.

Mr Moynagh said it is hoped a date for the leave hearing can be achieved before the end of June.

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