A man has been convicted of assaulting a trans sex worker in Ireland.
Ben O’Reilly, 21, pleaded not guilty in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assaulting Fernanda de Freitas, injuring her and robbing her of cash and a phone in 2017, the Irish Times has reported.
His conviction coincides with today’s International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
During the three-day trial, de Freitas told the court that O’Reilly behaved strangely during their booking before assaulting and robbing her.
“I got the impression [when he arrived] that he was going to do something bad,” she said.
“I felt he would represent problems for me.”
She said she tried to end the booking, but O’Reilly persuaded her to stay by offering extra cash – which he did not have on him but claimed he would get.
After sex, he acted strangely and dressed quickly “like he was rushing to leave”, de Freitas said.
She testified that he came at her “in a threatening way”, took her phone, and demanded his money back.
O’Reilly punched her repeatedly in the face and put his hands around her neck, before de Freitas fought him off by hitting him in the groin.
He left with €200 and her phone.
He this week told the court that he had taken the phone in error, believing it to be his own, while panicked after a dispute about the money in which he claimed de Freitas took the cash from his wallet.
The jury took two hours to deliberate, finally acquitting O’Reilly of the robbery but convicting him of the assault.
He will be sentenced next month.
During the trial, de Freitas told the court she had feared for her life.
“I thought I was going to die,” she said.
“I thought he was doing this because of the money so I yelled at him that I would give back the money if he stopped.”
She received medical treatment for her injuries, which included bruising to both eyes, and cuts to her mouth requiring stitches.
Sex work is legal in Ireland, but de facto criminalised by ‘Nordic Model’ laws that prohibit the buying of sex.
Since the laws were introduced in 2017, violent crime against sex workers has almost doubled, the Irish Independent has reported.
Similar effects have been seen worldwide in jurisdictions adopting the Nordic Model, with sex workers banned from working together for safety, and often afraid to go to the police when they are targeted by criminals.
“Sex workers are now forced to work in isolation, which puts them at further risk of violence and exploitation,” said Kate McGrew, director of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland.
“Since the law has been introduced, many more sex workers have been arrested than clients.
“We want sex work decriminalised so that the power gets put back in the hands of the worker.”
Sex workers around the world, including in Australia, are continuing to campaign for full decriminalisation of sex work to allow them to work in safety.