Members of the Justice Committee at Holyrood today rejected a call to fast-track legislation on criminalising the purchase of sex, insisting a fresh consultation should be carried out.
Labour MSP Rhoda Grant tabled the proposal this morning, urging colleagues to adopt a quicker route through Parliament for the Purchase of Sex Bill on the grounds a consultation conducted two years ago on similar proposed legislation had aired all the issues.
However, members rejected the move, opting instead to throw their weight behind a second consultation designed to allow “another opportunity to ascertain the opinion of those individuals most likely to be directly affected by the criminalisation of the purchase of sex”.
Legislation applying to loitering and soliciting already exists under the Prostitution (Public Places) Scotland Act 2007 though it remains possible for a consenting adult aged 18 or over to have sex with another consenting adult in return for payment without any offence being committed, said Grant.
In a written submission to the committee, the Highlands and Islands MSP said: “My proposal will make the purchase of sex illegal in Scotland, with the aim of reducing the demand for prostitution. In addition, by strengthening the existing legislative framework against purchasers, Scotland should become an unattractive market for prostitution and therefore other associated serious criminal activities, such as people trafficking for sexual exploitation, would be disrupted.”
Former MSP Trish Godman lodged a proposal last year seeking to ensure engaging in, advertising and facilitating a paid-for sexual activity each became a criminal offence.
She added: “Trish Godman’s consultation took place little over a year ago, on a very similar proposal. In addition, the Justice Committee gathered a substantial amount of evidence on her closely-related Stage 2 amendments earlier in session 3. I therefore believe that the practical, operational, legal, equality and financial considerations have been explored to a sufficient degree to test, develop and refine my specific proposal and enable me to proceed towards the development of a Bill.”
Further consultation beyond the total of 122 formal responses received in the original case would duplicate effort expended on the issue thus far and risked being construed as “over consultation” by the general public, Grant claimed.
However, in a letter sent on behalf of the Justice Committee following this morning’s decision, convener Christine Grahame MSP intimated the original consultation could not be relied upon considering it failed to pose a direct ‘Yes-No’ question on the buying or selling of sex becoming a criminal offence with data garnered now out-of-date.
The letter added: “I should make clear that the Committee fully accepts that it was legitimate for you to make the case that the consultation carried out by former MSP Trish Godman in 2010, along with other work referred to in your statement, was adequate for the purposes of your own proposed legislation.
“However the Committee in the end took the view that more consultation is needed in order to demonstrate that all major stakeholders have been given a clear opportunity to express a view on the specific aim that you are pursuing.”