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Volume 472: debated on Monday 3 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the level of the vice trade in Northern Ireland in the last two years; and if he will make a statement. (189827)

The true extent of the vice trade is very difficult to quantify, particularly as brothels tend to operate in one location for a short period of time before moving to avoid the attention of local police. The PSNI are taking part in Operation Pentameter 2, a UK-wide operation against human trafficking, which will improve our understanding of the scale of human trafficking and the illegal sex trade in Northern Ireland. In 2005 (the latest year for which data are available), three people were prosecuted and convicted in Northern Ireland for brothel-keeping.

As well as impacting on individuals, prostitution causes real problems for communities. In recent months, therefore, police have mounted three investigations where controlling prostitution was suspected. A file has been sent to the Public Prosecution Service, and €15,000 was seized under the proceeds of crime legislation.

In response to community concerns, I intend to include extension of the offence of kerb crawling to Northern Ireland, and a new offence relating to soliciting, in the draft Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order on which I have recently been consulting.