I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I am very pleased to present to this House today the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill 2007. It is a short but important Bill, not only for the criminal offences it will introduce into Irish law but for the very clear message it will send out on our determination to ensure that Ireland does not become a destination or transit point in the evil trade of trafficking in human beings.
The primary purpose of the Bill is to introduce specific criminal offences of trafficking in persons for the purpose of their sexual or labour exploitation or for the removal of their organs. Legislation in the area of human trafficking already in place is largely designed to deal with smuggling of human beings, as contained in the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000, and trafficking in children for the purpose of sexual exploitation, as contained in the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998.
This Bill is a further step in the fight against trafficking in human beings. From the outset, I emphasise that trafficking in human beings is being tackled at several levels. First and most important, because it underpins the other initiatives taking place, is the criminal law. Second are the immigration issues that may be raised when persons are trafficked. Third are the services provided to trafficked persons and the necessary protection which is given to them. Fourth are the Garda operations aimed at apprehending the traffickers and the international co-operation with other police forces and agencies, which is essential to successfully deal with such a transnational crime. Throughout my speech I will refer to the many initiatives that are being taken to provide a holistic approach to trafficking.
In this Bill I propose to deal with the criminal law aspects of human trafficking. The provisions of the Bill are extracted from the General Scheme of the Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill 2006. In addition to trafficking issues, that general scheme also contained provisions relating to the protection of children from sexual exploitation. I have decided to proceed without those provisions to expedite the drafting, publication and enactment of the trafficking provisions.
The provisions protecting children have not been forgotten. They will likely form the basis of further legislation but will be expanded to take account of recommendations in the Report of the Joint Committee on Child Protection. I also intend to bring the legislation underpinning the sex offenders register more into line with that in our neighbouring jurisdictions and to further strengthen the legislation on sexual grooming in the light of continuing developments in technology.
Shortly after my appointment as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform I stated that bringing forward legislation in the area of human trafficking would be a priority for me and I am pleased to now be in a position to do so at such an early date. Creating offences criminalising the trafficking in persons for the purposes of their sexual or labour exploitation or the removal of their organs will enable the Garda to deal more effectively with the trafficking of human beings into, through or out of the State and to co-operate more fully with other police forces in apprehending the international gangs that are often involved in such trafficking. Human trafficking takes many different forms. It is dynamic and adaptable and, like many other forms of criminal activity, it is constantly changing to defeat efforts by law enforcement agencies to prevent it. The responses to the problem are also rapidly evolving. International co-operation, which is so crucial to the success of most interventions against human trafficking, is gaining new momentum and new co-operation mechanisms are being developed. Recently, I announced further initiatives to deal with other aspects of this phenomenon and I will return to these initiatives later.
Before turning to the detail of the Bill, I wish to make clear that I consider trafficking in human beings an abhorrent crime and a violation of fundamental human rights. It is a crime which involves multiple actors, including recruiters, facilitators of transportation and fraudulent employment opportunities, exploiters and end beneficiaries of so-called goods and services provided and produced by trafficked persons. While most persons' idea of trafficking would be of ruthless international gangs, that is not always the reality. The profits from trafficking in persons are in the same league as profits from drug trafficking and the smuggling of weapons but it is a well established fact that the recruiters are sometimes women who are neighbours, friends or even members of the family of the unfortunatevictim.
This year marks the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade in the former British Empire. Trafficking in persons has been described as a form of modern day slavery and I want to send a clear message. The criminal trading of people, as commodities, for whatever purpose, has no place in a modern Ireland. This form of modern day slavery is an evil crime with no regard by the perpetrators for the human or social consequences. It is known that traffickers exploit the desire of the individual to have a better life. They prey on those who are vulnerable because of poverty or other social reasons, they deceive people into travelling with the promise of a better life. Instead, the victims often find themselves trapped and unable to leave exploitative and abusive circumstances. They become commodities who are moved, bought and sold to maximise profits. It is a multi-billion dollar business. The United Nations and other experts estimate the total market value of illicit human trafficking at $32 billion, and of this an estimated $10 billion is derived from the initial sale of individuals, with the remainder representing the estimated profits from the activities or goods produced by victims of this barbaric crime.
It is a crime that is transnational, almost by definition, and can best be understood in an international context. The European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations have all prepared instruments addressing this issue. The criminal law provisions of the following instruments have been taken into account in drafting this Bill: the EU framework decision on combating trafficking in human beings; the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings; the optional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and the protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.
Ireland was involved in the negotiations on these international instruments and will continue to fulfil its obligations to participate in the activities of many international organisations against human trafficking. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Síochána are currently participating in meetings of the European Union, Council of Europe, the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe alliance against trafficking and the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre.
The Government is committed to tackling this crime and recognises the need to draw together all the work that is being done across the various Departments and agencies. While there is no evidence of an appreciable human trafficking problem in Ireland, any level of this crime is deplorable. Due to its clandestine and criminal nature, accurate statistics on the magnitude of the human trafficking problem are elusive. The office to monitor and combat trafficking in persons at the State Department in Washington estimates that 800,000 people are trafficked worldwide each year. International experts estimate that some 2.5 million people throughout the world are at any given time recruited, entrapped, transported and exploited. The United Nations office on drugs and crime reports that trafficking in persons, whether for sexual exploitation or forced labour, affects virtually every region of the world. Data taken from the database on human trafficking trends document the trafficking of human beings from 127 countries to be exploited in 137 countries.
I mentioned that trafficking into Ireland is not a significant problem. However, it is a potential problem and could grow without remedial action. Recent research suggests that a minimum of 76 women were probably trafficked into Ireland in the past seven years. This is 76 too many and is indicative of a small but growing problem. Among the difficulties in calculating the true number of persons trafficked into Ireland are the different definitions used to describe trafficking and confusion in the differences between trafficking and smuggling. The definition of trafficking in the Bill will provide a standard internationally recognised meaning of trafficking in human beings. It can be distinguished from smuggling in persons as follows. Smuggling will always involve illegal border crossings with false or stolen documents. It is always voluntary and is ultimately a crime against the State. Trafficking can involve legal or illegal border crossings or even no border crossings. Documents may also be genuine or forged and will usually be taken from the victim by someone in the trafficking network. Coercion and repeated exploitation are usual with restrictions on and control of the victim's movements. It is a crime against the individual. What trafficking and smuggling have in common is that they are profitable criminal enterprises involving human beings and carried out by criminal networks.
Trafficking offences are difficult to prosecute for some of the same reasons that they are difficult to investigate. Due to the nature of the offence, the frequent need to rely on evidence collected abroad and the potential for victims and witnesses to be traumatised and intimidated, the prosecution of these offences offers new and difficult challenges. However, absence of reliable statistics does not justify inaction in response to the problem and enhanced international collaboration and the development of stronger witness protection measures must be part of any strategy to address these challenges.
Outlining the Government's strategy to deal with human trafficking, I recently announced other measures being taken to tackle this sordid crime. It is necessary to adopt a holistic approach to the issue and deal with human trafficking comprehensively. A new high level group on combating trafficking in human beings is being established. This group is tasked with presenting to me the most appropriate and effective response to dealing with trafficking in human beings. The group will consist of representatives of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Garda Síochána and other Departments and offices who have contributions to make to the national response. The committee will decide on the most appropriate way to engage constructively with the NGOs and other interested parties to ensure the most effective response to this crime. The NGO community will have an important role to play, particularly in the provision of services to victims.
A national action plan to combat trafficking in human beings will be drafted by the high level group. It is envisaged that the plan will be drafted under four main headings; prevention of trafficking and awareness raising, prosecution of traffickers, protection of the victim and the response to child trafficking. The key goal of the national action plan will be that Ireland has the appropriate legislative and administrative structures in place to allow for the adoption or ratification of all relevant international instruments. Last week, on the first EU day against trafficking in human beings, my Department launched a public consultation process to obtain the views of thepublic on what should be included in the action plan.
It is also my intention to include provisions in the forthcoming Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2007 which will strengthen the protections available to victims of human trafficking. In particular, it is my intention to provide the necessary framework whereby a victim of trafficking can be afforded an immediate period of recovery and reflection in the State. It is intended that this period will allow the victim time to heal and recover from his or her experience and also the opportunity to escape the influence of those who engage in human trafficking. In addition, this period will allow the victim time to come to a decision on whether he or she wishes to participate in any criminal proceedings in the matter and, in circumstances where he or she so wishes, a further period of residence in the State will be granted to enable him or her to do so.
The Garda National Immigration Bureau will continue to deploy whatever resources are necessary to counteract the problem of human trafficking. That office and my Department are co-operating with the UK agencies on Operation Pentameter 2, which was launched earlier this month in London. This is a co-ordinated campaign of law enforcement activity to tackle the trafficking of human beings for sexual exploitation into the UK. Due to the land border and the common travel area, co-operating with and contributing to such operations makes practical sense. Officers from the Garda Síochána and officials from my Department sit on the operation's gold command team as observers and have developed new contacts throughout the policing and NGO community in the UK.
The Garda Síochána continues to fully co-operate with the UK Human Trafficking Centre. The centre, which is the UK law enforcement response, is quickly becoming a centre of excellence. This year, officers from the centre have participated in the training of more than 100 gardaí in issues relating to human trafficking and victim identification and care.
Ireland has been invited to be part of a European G6 initiative against human trafficking. This initiative, launched last week, is a co-ordinated international campaign of activity to tackle the trafficking of human beings. Six European countries are participating, namely, the United Kingdom, Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Ireland. The initiative is supported by Europol, Interpol and Eurojust. It is a multi-strand operation marrying strategic policy development with a period of operational policing enforcement activity. The strands of the initiative include, intelligence gathering, awareness raising, law enforcement operational activity and victim protection. Ireland will lead the strand on awareness and will host a meeting of the partner countries in Dublin in January next year. This initiative is designed to ensure the EU becomes a more hostile environment for criminals engaged in trafficking. It is through initiatives like this, involving practical co-operation between member states of the EU and, Operation Pentameter II which is based on co-operation between the UK and Ireland, that we learn more about the problem of human trafficking in the European Union. This will help us to develop the necessary domestic structures to ensure that human trafficking does not become a substantial problem here.
I would like now to briefly outline to the House some of the main provisions. Section 2 is a definition section. The terms "exploitation", "labour exploitation", "sexual exploitation" and "trafficks" are given meanings based on what is required or intended by terms used in the international instruments referred to.
Section 3 creates an offence for the trafficking of a child for the purpose of the child's exploitation. "Exploitation" in this section does not include sexual exploitation which was addressed by way of amendment to section 4 of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998. This section criminalises persons who traffick children for the purpose of labour exploitation or the exploitative removal of their organs. The causing of an offence or an attempt to commit an offence is also criminalised. The section provides for a maximum penalty of unlimited fine and-or life imprisonment on conviction on indictment for committing any of the offences in the section.
Section 4 substitutes new provisions into the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998. It provides a new definition of sexual exploitation which is more in line with the definition of sexual exploitation of adults in section 2 and defines "child" for the purposes of the section as a person under 18 years of age. Under the 1998 Act, a child was defined as being under 17 years of age. Raising the age is in line with international norms and is also required by the international instruments on trafficking.
Section 5 proposes the creation of an offence in respect of trafficking in persons aged 18 years or over for the purposes of their sexual or labour exploitation or the removal of organs. Currently, there is no specific legislation protecting adults. A person involved in trafficking would invariably commit other serious offences including, rape, assault, abduction and false imprisonment. The wording in this section closely follows the wording in the EU framework decision on combating trafficking in human beings which in turn is closely aligned to the wording in the UN protocol which seeks to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children and supplements the convention against transnational organised crime and the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings.
The main difference between section 5 and sections 3 and 4 is that while children cannot consent to being trafficked, older persons can. The international instruments recognise this and, for on offence of trafficking in adults to take place there must be threats, the use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, an abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or, of giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of the person having control over another person. The concept of adults consenting to being transferred from one jurisdiction to another is controversial but we must accept that adults can give a valid consent and in some cases, as I mentioned already, there is confusion between trafficking and smuggling.
This section places mentally impaired persons in the same position as children who are trafficked; consent is not an issue. The definition of mentally impaired is the same as that contained in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993. This definition is used generally in criminal law provisions, particularly those that protect mentally impaired persons against sexual abuse or sexual exploitation.
Section 5 also includes the creation of an offence for selling, offering for sale or purchasing a person. This is not a requirement of any of the international instruments and, while not confined to trafficked persons, it acknowledges that persons can be sold and purchased many times whether en route to or in the destination country resulting in repeated suffering for the trafficked person. A similar offence in section 3 relates to the selling or purchasing of children. A person found guilty of any offence under section 5 is liable to a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine and-or life imprisonment. The severe penalties for these offences are an indication of how seriously the Government considers the crime of human trafficking.
Section 7 deals with jurisdiction. Ordinarily, Irish courts accept jurisdiction for offences committed within the jurisdiction. International instruments call for wider jurisdiction provisions, some mandatory, some voluntary. The provisions contained in section 7 are based on the jurisdictions contained in the Sexual Offences (Jurisdiction) Act 1996. We automatically accept jurisdiction when an offence is committed in the State, including on ships or aircraft registered in the State. We are also, under this legislation, accepting jurisdiction where an Irish citizen or person ordinarily resident in the State is alleged to have committed a trafficking offence abroad or where a trafficking offence is alleged to have been committed in another country against an Irish citizen or a person ordinarily resident in the State.
Sections 8 and 9 contain standard provisions regarding proceedings relating to offences committed outside the State and double jeopardy. Section 10 provides for exclusion of members of the public from proceedings. Trafficked persons can be vulnerable and traumatised and the traffickers and their criminal associates may wish to harm them or members of their families or prevent them from giving evidence. This provision will give a judge power to exclude from the court persons, other than officers of the court, directly connected with the proceedings or other persons as the judge may determine. This will ensure a lack of publicity surrounding these cases. Section 11, which is another protective measure, provides for a guarantee of anonymity of alleged victims of trafficking unless the judge fully or partially waives the anonymity in the interests of justice. Breach of this section could have serious consequences for the alleged victim. I consider that any offence under this section should be triable on indictment with a maximum penalty on conviction of an unlimited fine and-or ten years imprisonment.
Section 12 contains another protective measure for alleged victims. An amendment to the Criminal Evidence Act 1992 will allow an alleged victim of trafficking to give evidence through a live television link with the leave of the court in the case of adults from within the State or abroad. Section 13 provides for amendments to the Sex Offenders Act 2001. Some of these are technical in nature while others are important for the smooth operation of that Act. An important amendment raises the maximum penalty for non-compliance with the notification obligations in that Act, the sex offenders register as it is more usually known. Failure by a person so obliged to notify the Garda of his or her address, is an offence with a maximum penalty on summary conviction of a fine of €1,905 and-or 12 months imprisonment. The proposal in this section raises the penalties ensuring that the offence can be tried on indictment. As an arrestable offence, it will allow the Garda to arrest, on the spot, a person they know not to have complied with the notification requirements.
The section also gives power to probation and welfare officers to prosecute persons who fail to comply with the conditions attaching to an order for post-release supervision. These provisions requested by An Garda Síochána and the probation and welfare service, have been included to ensure smooth running of the Act in respect of notification requirements and post-release supervision. The amendment to the Bail Act at section 14 adds the offences created in the Bill to the Schedule of that Act. This means they are serious offences for the purpose of that Act.
I mentioned earlier that there has to be an holistic approach to the challenges presented by the international trafficking gangs. This Bill deals with one response to the challenge — the criminal law response. The offences are comprehensive, going beyond the requirements of the international instruments but retaining all the essential elements of the meanings given to the terms trafficking, sexual exploitation and labour exploitation contained therein. This is important in terms of our being in a position to ratify the instruments and for international co-operation.
On enactment of this Bill, we will be in full compliance with the EU framework decision on trafficking. I hope I have adequately explained the other initiatives, legislative, administrative and operational, being taken in tandem with this Bill in order to comprehensively tackle any existing manifestations of trafficking in this country and to prevent any proliferation in trafficking. As soon as progress is made on the administrative initiatives we will be in a position to ratify the UN protocol. We will, of course, first have to ratify the parent convention against transnational organised crime. Also, with the administrative response in place, ratification of the Council of Europe trafficking convention can take place as soon as the immigration, residence and protection Bill is enacted.
I look forward to a positive debate. As the Bill is a crucial part of my response to the cruel trade of trafficking in human beings, I have no hesitation in commending it to the House.