A man in Northern Ireland has become the first person to be arrested in the United Kingdom for buying sex, following legislation passed in June that outlawed the act. Chief Constable of Northern Ireland’s police service George Hamilton said the man was detained in a police raid on a brothel, the Guardian reported.
Hamilton said it was the first arrest to occur under section 15 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act 2015, which is the only region in the U.K. where people can be convicted for the offense. Three women were also arrested and interviewed in the incident for keeping a brothel, he said.
Those who break the new law can face up to a year in prison and a fine up to the equivalent of $1,500. The incident was brought forward by Hamilton during a policing board meeting in Belfast on Thursday. He did not name the man arrested or say where the incident took place.
The law sparked controversy among politicians, women’s rights advocates and sex workers, who all argued that such legislation would further endanger prostitutes by driving the industry further underground and away from the protection of law enforcement.
Among those who oppose the law is sex worker and law school graduate Laura Lee, who has launched a challenge against the law that she said she will pursue up to the European court of human rights.
“As a sex workers’ rights advocate, I campaigned long and hard against this legislation because evidence from around the world shows us just what damage the Swedish model does,” she said in a May statement. “It places sex workers in grave danger and the bill as presented does not decriminalize us as has been claimed.”
Sweden and Norway preceded Northern Ireland in passing legislation that criminalizes purchasing sex, the BBC reported.