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Contact Admin. A sex worker has won High Court permission to challenge a new law criminalizing her clients in Northern Ireland. Laura Lee was granted leave to seek a judicial review of Stormont legislation making it illegal for men to pay for prostitutes. A judge ruled she has established an arguable case that amendments to the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act breach her human rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination.
Although it shifts the legal burden away from prostitutes, they believe it will put them at heightened risk from customers using fake names to avoid identification. Ms Lee, a year-old Dublin-born law graduate, has been a sex worker for two decades. They contended that it will lead to sex workers increasingly carrying out their business alone, without the protection offered by brothel arrangements.
The court heard Ms Lee was herself exposed to significant verbal abuse during one encounter. She feared for her own safety but was able to avoid any violence.
Her legal challenge is directed against the Department of Justice - even though former Minister David Ford opposed the new legislative clause. He insisted no unlawful act had been identified, and suggested the Act brought in by Lord Morrow provided Ms Lee with greater protection from any abusive behaviour. Mr Larkin also submitted that protections under the European Convention on Human Rights do not cover sex for hire. Ruling on the application for leave to seek a judicial review, Mr Justice Maguire acknowledged the Attorney General's points had "considerable force".
But he held that the arguments advanced by Ms Lee's legal team were strong enough to meet the "modest threshold" of securing the right to progress their case. Outside court Ms Lee's solicitor, Ciaran Moynagh, backed the decision. A date for a full hearing of the unprecedented legal action will be set later this year.