Report on the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill (NIA 26/11-15)
Date: 10 April 2014
Reference: NIA 170/11-15
Mandate Number: Mandate 2011/15 Fifth Report
Download the full report here.
1. This report sets out the Committee for Justice’s consideration of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill.
2. The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill consists of 19 clauses and proposes to make provision for human trafficking offences and exploitation; measures to prevent and combat human trafficking and slavery; and support for human trafficking victims.
3. The Committee requested evidence from a number of government departments and interested organisations and individuals as well as from Lord Morrow, Bill Sponsor, as part of its deliberations on the Bill. Written submissions were received from more than 140 individuals and organisations and the Committee took oral evidence from a wide range of organisations.
4. To assist its consideration of Clause 6 the Committee undertook a visit to Sweden in December 2013 to meet with Government and Non-Government representatives to discuss its legislation which criminalises the purchase of sex. The Committee also met with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in Dublin on 23 January 2014 to discuss the findings of its Report on a Review of Legislation on Prostitution which recommended the introduction of a summary offence penalising the purchase of sexual services of another person by means of prostitution, or any request, agreement or attempt to do so. The Committee also held two private informal meetings, one with a victim of human trafficking for sexual services and the other with a former sex buyer, to hear their personal experiences and views on criminalising the purchase of sexual services.
Clauses of the Bill
5. When the Committee deliberated on the clauses of the Bill some Members indicated that they wished to reserve their position in relation to a number of the clauses, in particular Clause 4 and Clause 6.
6. The Committee agreed 17 of the clauses in the Bill as drafted or as drafted with proposed amendments by Lord Morrow, Bill Sponsor, and/or the Department of Justice at its meetings on 3 April and 8 April 2014. The Committee did not agree Clause 8 as drafted and agreed to bring forward an amendment in relation to Clause 19.
7. Clauses 1 to 8 cover offences and investigation/prosecution of offences. The principal aim of these clauses is to ensure there are effective offences and sufficient resources for effective investigation and prosecution of cases. The clauses bring in some new definitions in relation to human trafficking and slavery offences and create a new offence of purchasing sexual services to reduce demand for trafficked individuals and combat exploitation.
8. The Committee was content with the definition of human trafficking and slavery offences and the provision to make consent irrelevant in Clauses 1 and 2. However it noted that depending on the results of the Department of Justice consultation on proposals to simplify and consolidate the legislative framework around human trafficking and slavery offences changes may be required. The Committee also supported the inclusion of aggravating factors as set out in Clause 3 subject to some technical amendments.
9. In relation to Clause 4 the Committee was clear in its support for a robust sentencing framework that reflects the gravity of human trafficking and slavery offences and indicates the seriousness with which such offences are viewed in Northern Ireland and agreed that the minimum sentence requirement should not apply to children. Some Members expressed reservations about the broad concept of including minimum sentences in legislation and were concerned that Clause 4 could interfere with judicial discretion in individual cases. Other Members were of the opinion that Clause 4 provided sufficient qualification to ensure that it was not an absolute minimum sentence and while it narrowed judicial discretion it did not exclude it. They viewed the Clause as being persuasive on the Court to impose a 2-year sentence but not binding on it. The Committee agreed Clause 4 subject to amendments to restrict a minimum sentence for a human trafficking offence to adults only and cover other issues.
10. The Committee was content to support Clause 5 but noted that it could become redundant depending on the results of the Department of Justice consultation on a proposal for a new consolidated offence of human trafficking.
11. Clause 6 attracted the most evidence and discussion. Having considered the evidence some Members indicated that they supported the amendments Lord Morrow proposed to make which included narrowing the scope of the offence, providing further sentencing options and requiring an advertising campaign to ensure public awareness of the changes in the law. In their view the information obtained during the visit to Sweden regarding the impact its legislation had on reducing demand for sexual services and tackling human trafficking and the meeting with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality added weight to the case for introducing the Clause and they noted the importance of both jurisdictions on the Island of Ireland moving forward together on this issue.
12. Other Committee Members indicated that they were not in a position at this stage to support Clause 6 as the appropriate way to deal with human trafficking and supporting vulnerable people in prostitution. They stated that they were concerned about the possible consequences on those involved in prostitution and required more evidence regarding the size and nature of prostitution in Northern Ireland and the possible unintended consequences of criminalising the purchase of sexual services here. They welcomed the fact that the Department of Justice had commissioned research into prostitution in Northern Ireland and stated that this should be completed as speedily as possible to inform the right legislative approach in relation to this matter.
13. The Committee agreed to support Clause 6 subject to the proposed amendments by Lord Morrow with a number of Members indicating they reserved their position as they had not reached a definitive decision.
14. In relation to Clause 7 the Committee viewed the provision of adequate and appropriate training to all frontline professionals to effectively tackle human trafficking as very important and was content to support the approach that had been agreed by Lord Morrow, the Bill Sponsor, and the Department of Justice to omit Clause 7 (1) and amend Clause 15 to address the issue. The Committee also supported the provisions in Clause 7 that set out that a prosecution was not dependent on reporting or accusation by a victim and it could take place even if the victim had withdrawn their statement.
15. Members recognised and shared the concerns that had been expressed regarding ‘blanket immunity’ arising from Clause 8 and noted this was not the policy intent. They also noted that the Clause may not be needed if appropriate assurances are provided by the Public Prosecution Service that the prosecutorial guidance on Human Trafficking cases will adequately address the issue of non-prosecution of victims of trafficking.
16. The Committee therefore agreed that it was not in a position to support Clause 8 as drafted but did support the principles outlined by Lord Morrow, the Bill Sponsor, regarding non-prosecution and wished to consider the findings of the Joint Committee in Westminster which is considering this matter as part of its scrutiny of the draft Modern Slavery Bill.
17. Clauses 9 to 12 set out legal requirements for providing effective assistance and support for victims of human trafficking.
18. The Committee recognised the need to provide effective assistance and support for victims of human trafficking whether or not criminal proceedings are taken and to give additional protection to victims and witnesses during investigations and trials and supporting the intention of the Department of Justice and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to bring forward amendments to clarify definitions and respective roles and responsibilities.
19. Some Members expressed concern about the statutory guidance that the Department of Justice would be required to produce in respect of compensation for victims of human trafficking. They felt guidance would not be sufficient to make this provision effective and ensure compensation can be paid to victims of trafficking. In light of this the Committee indicated that it would seek a commitment from the Minister of Justice, during Consideration Stage, that the Department will consult the Committee on the draft guidance and take full account of its views.
20. The Committee supported the concept of an independent Child Trafficking Guardian but noted that the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety was continuing to discuss this Clause with Lord Morrow and amendments may be needed to address potential issues with existing legislation.
21. The Committee was content with Clauses 9 to 12 subject to a range of proposed amendments.
22. Clauses 13 and 14 provide additional protection for victims and witnesses during investigations and trials. Clause 14 amends the law on ‘special measures’ for witnesses to ensure that all trafficked victims are eligible for special measures.
23. The Committee supported the extension of the provision of special measures to victims of human trafficking during the investigation process and the provision of special measures to victims of human trafficking during the court process. However it noted that consequential amendments may be required following the outcome of the Department of Justice consultation on its proposals to simplify and consolidate the legislative framework around human trafficking and slavery offences to ensure that witnesses to ensure that all trafficked victims are eligible for special measures. It was content with Clauses 13 and 14 subject to a range of amendments.
24. Clauses 15 and 16 require the Department of Justice to publish a strategy every year to raise awareness of and reduce human trafficking and slavery and to set up a Northern Ireland Rapporteur.
25. In relation to Clause 15 the Committee was content with the intention to place a statutory requirement on the Department of Justice to publish a strategy to raise awareness of, and contribute to, the reduction of human trafficking and slavery offences. It also noted that, with the agreement of Lord Morrow, Bill Sponsor, the strategy would also cover matters relating to training, investigation and prosecution and raise awareness of the rights and entitlements of victims of human trafficking.
26. The Committee agreed that it was content with the provision for a Northern Ireland Rapporteur in Clause 16. However it noted that the remit of the Anti-Slavery Commissioner, which would be created by the draft Modern Slavery Bill, could be extended to Northern Ireland, and indicated that it would consider the matter further when there is clarity on the position regarding such a Commissioner and the likely remit and responsibilities.
27. Clauses 17 to 19 set out definitions and commencement information.
28. In light of comments made by the Attorney General the Committee was of the view that it would be preferable to remove the requirement to commence the Bill from the Department of Justice and agreed to consider a draft amendment to Clause 19 to make provision for the Bill to commence on Royal Assent.
29. The Committee subsequently considered the wording of an amendment to make provision for the Bill to commence on Royal Assent and also discussed whether a better approach would be to build in some time to enable those Departments and organisations that would be responsible for the implementation of the provisions of the Bill to develop the necessary measures and procedures, particularly in relation to support services and training.
30. Members indicated a preference to build in a short time period between Royal Assent and commencement of the Bill and agreed this should be three months. A draft amendment to Clause 19 to commence the Bill three months after it receives Royal Assent was therefore prepared and the Committee agreed the wording of the amendment at its meeting on 8 April 2014.
Proposed New Provisions
31. Four proposals for new provisions were brought to the attention of the Committee during the Committee Stage of the Bill. Three provisions were proposed by Lord Morrow and one by the Department of Justice.
32. Lord Morrow advised the Committee that he had received a request from the Minister for Finance and Personnel to include a new offence of forced marriage as part of the Bill. Lord Morrow indicated that he was content for the offence, which is to be enacted in England, Wales and Scotland, to be included in his Bill.
33. The Committee briefly considered the proposed new provision at its meeting on 13 March 2014, and agreed to request information on the background to and rationale for the new offence and the wording of the draft clause from the Department of Finance and Personnel.
34. The Committee was supportive of the inclusion of the new provision in principle and agreed to give further consideration to the detail of the proposed new offence once further information had been received from the Department of Finance and Personnel.
Support Services for Exiting Prostitution
35. The Committee considered a proposed new provision from Lord Morrow which would provide support services for those who wish to exit prostitution. Lord Morrow outlined during his oral evidence to the Committee on 20 March 2014, that numerous parties, including Women’s Aid and Ruhama, had made it clear that for the Bill to be effective an exit strategy had to be built in for those who wish to exit prostitution.
36. The Committee discussed with him the estimated costs associated with the implementation of an exit strategy for those who wished to leave prostitution, the assumptions they were based on, and the range of Departments and organisations who may be involved in the implementation, and provision of the support services.
37. The Committee agreed to write to the Departments of Justice, Education, and Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the Department for Social Development to request their views on the new proposal in order to assist its consideration of the detail of the proposed support services package.
38. The Committee was supportive of the intent of the new provision, recognising the need for a support mechanism to be put in place had been highlighted by the Oireachtas Joint Committee and a range of organisations who work with trafficked victims and those in prostitution. The Committee indicated that it would give further consideration to the provision when the views of the various Departments had been received.
Slavery offence to be triable only on indictment
39. The Committee noted a proposal by Lord Morrow to insert a new Clause 3A which would allow a two year minimum sentence for slavery offences by removing the option of a summary offence in section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. Lord Morrow highlighted that this new clause may not be needed depending on the outcome of the Department of Justice’s consultation on its proposals to simplify and consolidate the legislative framework around human trafficking and slavery offences.
40. The Committee noted the proposal.
Time limit for prosecution of offences under Article 64A of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008
41. The Committee noted a proposal by the Department of Justice, that should Clause 6 not stand part of the Bill, then it would introduce a new Clause 6A to amend Article 64A of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008. It outlined that Article 64A makes it an offence to pay for the sexual services of a prostitute who is subjected to force or any form of coercion or exploitation. The new Clause 6A would extend the time limit for prosecution of offences under Article 64A of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 from six months to three years. The Department clarified that the new Clause 6A would not be moved if Clause 6 stands part of the Bill.
42. The Committee considered and agreed its report on the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill at its meeting on 10 April 2014.