Men convicted of soliciting services of prostitutes from undercover gardaí
TWO LIMERICK men have been convicted of soliciting the services of prostitutes from undercover female gardaí in the city, after a judge rejected claims by the defence that the men were victims of entrapment “by agents of the State”.
As part of “Operation Freewheel”, an ongoing operation to target those behind the supply and demand of prostitution in Limerick city, 21 men were brought before Limerick District Court last December, charged with “soliciting or importuning for the purposes of prostitution” on dates between November 11th and December 4th, 2011, under section 7 of the Criminal Law Sexual Offence Act, 1993.
Yesterday, two more men appeared before Judge Eugene O’Kelly to contest the same charges, after being arrested on Barrington Street in the city on November 12th, 2011, and December 31th, 2011. Both men were convicted of the offence and fined €250.
The 21 men who earlier pleaded guilty were directed to pay €470 to a nominated charity and had their charges struck out.
Concluding the case, Judge O’Kelly said he has noted “a scourge of prostitution in the city, which is causing particular difficulty to the good citizens of Limerick. The gardaí are under significant pressure to do something about this evil and I’m satisfied they’re entitled to mount this operation,” he said.
Garda Sharon Quirke, Roxboro Road Garda station, told the court that after taking up duty at 6pm on November 12th, 2011, she was assigned to this operation.
She said she was wearing a black top, jacket, trousers and boots and was approached by Timothy Costello (53), with an address in Deerpark, Adare, Co Limerick.
“I was asked: Was I working? Did I have a place close by? How much was I charging for sex? What would I get for €20?” she told the court.
She said the man had a “nervous disposition” and did not give her an opportunity to respond to any of these questions.
As arranged during an operation briefing with Sgt Martin O’Sullivan, she gestured to other gardaí in plain clothes, sitting in an unmarked patrol car nearby, giving the signal that the man was soliciting her for these services by tipping the top of her boots.
Garda Niamh Keogh, also stationed at Roxboro Road was positioned beside her, and she too made the gesture to her colleagues in the patrol car.
On December 31st, 2011, Garda Quirke was again stationed on Barrington Street and was approached at 9.50pm by Patrick O’Doherty (60), with an address at High Meadows, Gouldavoher, Fr Russell Road, Limerick.
“I was asked: Was I working? How much are we charging? What’s on offer? What was I charging for sex?” The same signal was given, and he was arrested by Garda Keith McCarthy.
Defence counsel Brian McInerney applied for both cases to be dismissed on the grounds of “material inconsistencies” in the evidence of the gardaí, entrapment whereby “agents of the State were masquerading as somebody else and seeking to capture persons”, and non-disclosure of certain evidence, namely the replies given by female gardaí.
However the judge said gardaí were entitled to stand on the street for “whatever operation they wished, without being approached and questioned about sex”.