An online group dedicated to raising awareness about the rights and safety of sex workers has told An Garda Síochana that hundreds of men claiming to be gardaí have allegedly been abusing sex workers nationwide.
The organisation, named Ugly Mugs Ireland, claim that multiple men have allegedly attacked, robbed, and sexually assaulted mostly female sex workers from between 2016 up until as recently as last month.
It appealed to investigating officers to brief Garda Commissioner Drew Harris on the number of people allegedly abusing sex workers while claiming to be either a garda or have friends in the force.
According to a recent report from the Irish Examiner, Ugly Mugs Ireland is in touch with an estimated 1,000 sex workers in Ireland and met with the Garda inspectorate in 2019.
The alleged offences detailed in the group's reports include impersonators demanding free sex 'or else they will arrest' the worker, to violent abuse; including rape, choking, and assault.
The Examiner added in its report that at least two complaints from Ugly Mugs Ireland allege that men falsely impersonating gardaí produced handcuffs and attempted to restrain the women against their will.
In response, a garda spokesperson said: "No formal complaints were made by any individual complainants. An Garda Síochána cannot investigate anecdotal or anonymised reports."
They added that anyone who believes they have been subject of any criminal or inappropriate activity by a member of the force can make a complaint to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.
Ireland’s laws on selling sex changed in 2017.
Under the reformed law, paying for sexual services a criminal offence, but not the sale of sex.
The law was designed to protect human trafficking victims and sex workers from exploitation.
However, an Amnesty International Ireland report last year found the law is facilitating the targeting and abuse of sex workers, and the state is failing to protect them from violence.
If you have been affected by this article, you can find resources to help you by contacting Women's Aid at 1800 341 900.
Additionally, you can email Samaritans Ireland at email@example.com or ring 116 123, or visit the Rape Crisis Centre at drcc.ie.
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