NI: PSNI officers advised to caution purchasers of sex

George Hamilton
PSNI chief constable George Hamilton

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has advised officers that those caught purchasing sex in contravention of a recently introduced law should be cautioned rather than prosecuted.

The purchase of sex was criminalised in June when the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act 2015 came into force.

Earlier this month, PSNI chief constable George Hamilton said a man had been detained for “paying for sexual services” in a brothel in October.

It has emerged that the matter was concluded with a discretionary disposal (or caution) after the accused was released on bail.

A spokesperson for the PSNI has now told the Belfast News Letter: “Under certain circumstances, officers have been advised to deal with such an offence by way of discretionary disposal.

“This is to allow time for an understanding and awareness of the new legislation to take effect across the community.”

However, the spokesperson stressed that this policy “applies to a purely consensual transaction where consent is freely given by all concerned”.

He added: “If there was evidence of a sexual act with a non-consenting victim, this would be investigated as a possible rape.”

The policy has been criticised by Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) peer Lord Morrow, who introduced the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill to the Northern Ireland Assembly last year.

Lord Morrow told the Belfast News Letter: “With the law in place it is also the job of the Police to then enforce that law.”

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