Sex Workers, Know Your Rights – The Laura Lee Blog

With the current climate in the Republic of Ireland, it has never been more important to know where you stand if and when you come into contact with the authorities. At SWAI, we are committed to supporting you in every way we can, so please do get in touch. The following is a summary of your rights and a guide on what to do.

Woman in handcuffs

If Gardaí come to your work apartment or house –

Stay Calm.

Speak politely, clearly and firmly.

Ask to see I.D. and write down the name of the Gardai.

Ask why they are visiting you.

Gardaí Entering and Searching

• The Gardaí cannot enter or search your place without a warrant unless you invite or allow them inside.

• If you allow them inside, they may search or look around the apartment without a warrant.

• If the Gardaí do have a warrant you have the right to ask why they are searching the premises and under what law. If you don’t ask they don’t have to, and may not tell you.

• If they ask you questions about your work or ask you to go to the station for questioning ask them if you are under arrest and for what. If you are not under arrest you do not have to answer questions or go to the station.

• If uniformed Gardaí knock on your door ask them to show their I.D. through the peep hole or while chain is on the door to prove they are the police.

• If you open the door to speak with the Gardaí ask them what their visit is about. If they ask to come in and talk to you but do not have a search warrant you do not have to let them in.

• If the Garda begins to question you, ask them what they are investigating. You can tell them you need legal advice before answering questions. If they say it is just a chat and you have nothing to worry about explain that you have had problems in the past and prefer to do things properly.

• Sometimes Gardaí make fake appointments with sex workers and turn up without their uniform.

• Unless you have given informed consent (i.e. you know that he is a Garda), he can’t use any evidence against you that he has obtained undercover. Once you find out he’s a Garda and he doesn’t have a warrant, you are entitled to ask him to leave.

Arrest

• To arrest you, the Gardaí must have a reasonable suspicion that you have broken the law.

• You have the right to be told very clearly that you are under arrest and the reason for your arrest.

• Remember it is LEGAL to sell consensual sexual services to another adult indoors when you work alone.

• If you are with another worker(s) when the Gardaí visit you are at risk of arrest for Brothel Keeping. However, you do not have to plead guilty if charged.

• If you are arrested and English isn’t your first language ask for an interpreter so you understand everything. Even if you speak English well always ask for an interpreter. You need to understand everything.

If you are arrested ask to call a solicitor and don’t answer any questions until your solicitor arrives.

• A number of solicitor firms have 24/7 service for people who need legal advice when they are arrested. Ask SWAI for more details and always have a number for a solicitor with you when you work.

• You have the right to have a solicitor present during questioning, i.e. when you are being questioned by the Gardaí in a Garda Station.

Working in a hotel

• The law around doing sex work in a hotel in Ireland is unclear. It may be considered ‘Brothel Keeping’ if more than one worker is in the same hotel.

• If staff in a hotel ask you to leave, you have a right to know why.

• If hotel staff accuse you of escorting and threaten to call the Gardaí, you can ask what proof they have and/or agree to leave if the cost of your room is refunded.

• If the Gardaí come to your hotel room you should follow the same advice above for working in an apartment or house.

Disclaimer: This information has been prepared by the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland for information purposes only, with no guarantee as to accuracy or applicability to a particular set of circumstances. It is not intended as, and should not be considered to be, legal advice. The information may change from time-to-time and may be out of date. The Sex Workers Alliance Ireland disclaims any legal responsibility for the content or the accuracy of the information provided.

Laura Lee

Laura Lee

Irish mother, writer, animal lover, perpetual student and sex workers' rights campaigner.
Laura Lee

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