Ireland’s Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said that the country’s legislation on prostitution needs to be radically overhauled.

Minister Shatter told a conference in Dublin that a review is needed to ensure legislation is sufficiently robust and flexible to address criminality in the modern-day sex trade.

He was speaking at a day-long conference on the future direction of prostitution legislation.

The Irish Times reports that Minister Shatterremarked: “Under current Irish legislation it is not illegal, in itself to sell sex. Generally, it is not illegal to purchase sex either.

“Prostitution has existed since time immemorial. The main reason behind the current review of Irish prostitution law is because the nature of prostitution had changed in recent years.

“Prostitution is no longer the street-based activity it was when the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 was enacted.

“Since then, it is fair to say that prostitution has largely, though not exclusively, moved indoors and the development of the internet has resulted in aspects of it being substantially web based.

“It is important therefore, to review our current legislation to ensure it is sufficiently robust and flexible to address criminality in the environment in which prostitution operates today.”

The Fine GaelMinister posed 14 ‘key questions’ to delegates including whether the law should criminalise those who pay for sex and if a ban on the purchase of sexual services might drive prostitution further underground making life more dangerous for sex workers.

The Irish Times also reports that the conference heard wide-ranging submissions from organisations including Ruhama, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland as well as public health representatives and academics.

The meeting was also addressed by Det Insp Simon Haggstrom of the Prostitution Unit of the Stockholm Police Force in Sweden, where the purchase of sex has been criminalised since 1999, and from Jack Verbruggen from the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice where prostitution was legalised in 2000.

Minister Shatter added: “This conference is an essential element, of what must be a balanced, fair and comprehensive review of the law on prostitution.

“A report on a recent public consultation process on the issue will be drawn up by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality by the year’s end.”