Fourteen prostitution-related offences have been reported to the police in 2023, with only a few leading to fines or prosecutions. The head of the central investigative department with the Metropolitan Police has told RÚV that the police lacks sufficient manpower to adequately investigate such cases.
A total of 562 cases since the enactment
Fourteen cases of prostitution-related offences have been brought to the police for investigation this year. This was disclosed in responses from the Minister of Justice to queries by Brynhildur Björnsdóttir, deputy member of Parliament for the Left-Green Movement.
As noted on the Parliament’s website, the response indicates that of these cases, two have been subjected to fine procedures and three to prosecution. No verdict has been delivered in any of the cases that emerged this year.
As noted by Vísir, Brynhildur had inquired about the number of prostitution offences committed since the enactment of Law 54/2009, which criminalises the purchase of sexual services and provides penalties of fines or up to one year of imprisonment for those who buy or attempt to buy sex. Since 2009, there have been a total of 562 such cases.
Of these, 82 underwent fine procedures, 251 faced prosecution, and verdicts have been reached in 104 of the cases. The Minister’s response also notes the difficulty in compiling information on convictions or acquittals due to the extensive work entailed.
Rare for victims of prostitution to press charges
As noted by RÚV, the number of cases that have been subjected to prosecution procedures has declined significantly since 2013. That year, 126 cases were subject to prosecution and a verdict was delivered in 64 of those cases. Since then, prosecutory actions have been pursued much more infrequently and a verdict in such cases has only been delivered nine times.
In an interview with RÚV published this morning, Drífa Snædal, spokesperson for Stígamót (a centre for survivors of sexual violence that provides free and confidential counselling), asserted that the statistical data do not align with the actual scale of the offences; the staff at Stígamót feel that incidents of prostitution have increased in recent years, with Drífa pointing to the number of websites offering services of prostitutes.
According to Stígamót’s annual report, 18 individuals sought help from the centre last year due to prostitution. The report notes that processing the traumatic experiences associated with prostitution often takes a long time.
As noted by RÚV, a likely explanation for the low rate of legal action in such cases, as presented in the response from the Minister of Justice, is that these matters are not a priority for the police. Cases often need to be actively sought out because it is rare for victims of prostitution to directly approach police stations to press charges against purchasers.
Drífa also noted that court proceedings in such cases are always closed, which she finds incomprehensible; the identity of the perpetrator never becomes public, which does not affect the victim’s standing in society. Meanwhile, the self-blame experienced by those in prostitution is significant, with victims often holding themselves responsible and resorting to prostitution out of some form of desperation.
Lacking sufficient manpower
Grímur Grímsson, head of the central investigative unit of the Metropolitan Police, told RÚV that the police lacked sufficient manpower to adequately address these cases.
Grímur agreed that there were a significant number of websites offering prostitution services in Iceland and not enough manpower to investigate. He mentioned that the increase in violent crime in recent years had also played a role in this regard. “Violent crime cases take a lot of time, and they are urgent. But it is a matter of prioritisation; hopefully, we can do better in the new year,” Grímur observed.