Over 600 'sale of sex' offences will be expunged under a Government initiative to address the needs of victims of sex trafficking and those forced to provide sexual services.
The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, said today that officials in her Department will be drafting the necessary legislative amendments required.
It has not been an offence to sell sex in Ireland since 2017, when new legislation criminalising the purchaser of sex, rather than the seller, came into effect.
However, this initiative is aimed at those who have exited sex work but have previous convictions.
"I hope this initiative will bring some relief to those who are looking to leave that aspect of their lives behind," Ms McEntee said.
"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," the minister said.
An Garda Síochána has identified a total of 607 convictions to be expunged.
The Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) has welcomed the new initiative but said it does not go far enough.
Kate McGrew, Director of SWAI, called for criminal records for brothel-keeping to also be expunged.
"This is defined as criminalisation of merely co-working, and this is where the majority of sex worker convictions have occurred since 2017. This law continues to force us to work alone if we are to work legally," Ms McGrew said.
SWAI advocates for full decriminalisation of the sex industry, including a reversal of client criminalisation.
Ruhama, a charity working with women affected by prostitution and sex trafficking, also welcomed the initiative as a "significant and positive step forward in providing hope to those who have exited, or wish to exit, the sex trade".
Opportunities in employment and education can be closed off to victims where previous convictions exist for them, it said in a statement.