What impact will the ban on paying for sex have in Mid Ulster?

A number  protesters at Stormont this afternoon as MLS's debate a Human Trafficking Bill at Stormont. The bill, drawn up by the DUP peer Lord Morrow, contains a clause that would make it a crime for anyone to pay for sex. PHOTO COLM LENAGHAN/PACEMAKER

A number protesters at Stormont this afternoon as MLS's debate a Human Trafficking Bill at Stormont. The bill, drawn up by the DUP peer Lord Morrow, contains a clause that would make it a crime for anyone to pay for sex. PHOTO COLM LENAGHAN/PACEMAKER

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Paying for sex is to be banned in Northern Ireland after Stormont Assembly members backed the move in a landmark late-night vote.

The proposal to outlaw purchasing sex is among a number of clauses contained in a Bill aimed at amending Northern Ireland’s laws on trafficking and prostitution.

But what impact will this have in Mid Ulster? Is prostitution happening here?

In February of this year, the Mail revealed that young people from Cookstown, Dungannon and Coalisland listed solicitation amongst the issues that they are concerned about.

Following a freedom of information request to the police however, they have said no arrests were made in relation to prostitution over the course of 2013.

And that while in 2012, the PSNI targeted three Dungannon properties on the issue of human trafficking, in Cookstown there have been no such searches.

Read more on prostitution fears in Mid Ulster here...

Paid-for consensual sex is currently legal in Northern Ireland, though activities such as kerb crawling, brothel keeping and pimping are against the law.

A ban will see the region implement a prohibition similar to the model operating in Sweden.

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill was tabled before the Assembly by Democratic Unionist peer Lord Morrow.

The fate of the Bill’s contentious clause six, proposing the ban on purchasing sex, was uncertain at the outset of the debate, with Sinn Fein’s decision to back the prohibition along with the DUP proving crucial.

The clause was passed during the Bill’s consideration stage by 81 votes to 10 shortly after 11.30pm.

Stormont’s Justice Minister David Ford, leader of the cross community Alliance Party, opposed the clause.

While the legislation still has to pass further Assembly stages, the significant majority support within the devolved administration means it is essentially now destined to become law.

Research published by Queen’s University in Belfast last week said about 17,500 men pay for sex in Northern Ireland every year.

Sex workers opposing the clause and a trafficking victim in support of the ban were among those at Parliament Buildings in Belfast to watch the marathon debate.

Advocates of the ban insist it will reduce human trafficking in the region while critics claim it will merely drive the problem further underground.