Lord Morrow launched a consultation today on his draft Bill proposing to strengthen the law on tackling human trafficking and improve the support provided for its victims in Northern Ireland.
His private members Bill, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill, seeks to address the growing problem of trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labour head-on. The Criminal Justice Bill currently making its passage through the Northern Ireland Assembly contains two provisions to bring Northern Ireland into compliance with the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive. However, Lord Morrow believes that this is not enough and more should be done to enable the successful prosecution of criminals involved in trafficking and the effective support of their victims.
Speaking from Stormont, where the official launch took place, Lord Morrow said:
‘Human Trafficking to Northern Ireland is on the increase. The PSNI rescued a reported 75 individuals in the years 2009/10 from trafficking, and that figure has increased year on year. Of course the actual number of victims trafficked to Northern Ireland, is significantly higher.’
‘People tend to be trafficked for sex or some form of domestic servitude or forced labour. Trafficking for sexual exploitation is a particular problem. Police estimate there are around 90 brothels operating in the province, with Northern Ireland having a higher demand for prostitution than most other areas of Europe. In the last year 27 victims have been identified of whom 18 were trafficked for sexual exploitation. This is a deeply worrying state of affairs.’
If Lord Morrow’s Bill became law trafficked victims would be provided with appropriate and safe accommodation, counselling, legal aid and ‘special measures’ if they act as witnesses. For child victims of trafficking, the Bill specifically proposes fundamental protections and support including the provision of legal advocates to ensure the decision making process primarily considers the best interests of the child.
The Bill also proposes total exemption from prosecution in the case of victims being forced into acts of criminality, such as cannabis cultivation, as a direct consequence of being trafficked.
The European Directive also requires member states to take measures to reduce trafficking. Lord Morrow’s Bill recognises that ‘demand for paid sex is one of the main drivers of trafficking to Northern Ireland’. Whilst it is illegal to buy sex from someone in Northern Ireland if they are coerced, in practice this presents real challenges for the police and prosecutors as it requires proof of coercion which can be very difficult to provide. The Bill therefore proposes creating a new offence of purchasing sexual services.
Genevieve Galvin, CARE’s Human Trafficking and Exploitation Officer, expressed her support for the Bill and welcomed the exciting prospect of doing more to tackle modern-day slavery in Northern Ireland.
‘CARE has been working closely with Lord Morrow, and our hope is that Members of the Legislative Assembly will throw their support behind this opportunity to enact real change. Fuller compliance with the EU Directive would mean Northern Ireland would be blazing a trail for the rest of the UK to follow. Their strong resolve and robust action would bring the kind of justice and fair treatment victims of trafficking should expect to receive in the UK’
The consultation gives opportunity for interested individuals in Northern Ireland to have their say on the proposals of this ground-breaking move with a deadline of 18 October – Anti-Slavery Day in the UK.
Although efforts have been made across the UK to implement some aspects of the EU directive, Lord Morrow’s Bill provides Northern Ireland the opportunity to be at the forefront of the fight against the modern slave trade. Reassuringly, Lord Morrow is not alone in his fight to bring legislative change on the issue. CARE is also working with Lord McColl in Westminster to tackle human trafficking and provide better support for its victims.
 The Bill proposes a number of points including:
 Consultation Paper, Proposed Changes in the Law to Tackle Human Trafficking, page 11
 Article 64A of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008
 If you live in Northern Ireland and would like to respond to the consultation you can access the Bill and consultation paper on the links below or for more information contact Lord Morrow’s office on tel: 028 8775 2799 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can access the draft Bill here
The consultation can be downloaded by clicking here