Ireland became the ‘destination of choice’ for prostitutes over the boom years, according to a top crime official.

Superintendent Fergus Healy of the Garda’s Crime Policy and Administration Unit made the observations during hearings into the state of prostitution in Ireland this week.

According to Supt Healy, police estimate there are around 800 women working on a daily basis as prostitutes in the Republic. There has been an increase in the amount of foreign women involved, with most coming from eastern Europe and China.

The hearing heard how one journalist posing as a prostitute had received 350 calls over a five-day period.

According to the Oireachtas hearing the introduction of legislation in 1993 has dramatically reduced the number of prostitutes working on streets. It was noted that the use of the Internet means most of Ireland’s prostitution has moved indoors.

The Irish Examiner reports there are low prosecution conviction rates as Supt Healy said many people due to be prosecuted leave Ireland before their case comes to court.

In 2002 there were 56 convictions from 202 prosecutions. In 2012, 12 people were convicted from 112 prosecutions.

He described the industry as a ‘sinister world’.