Judges need discretion when sentencing human traffickers – Ward

We must bring the full force of the law against people who trade in the lives of vulnerable victims

23rd January 2021 - Senator Barry Ward

Irish law must meet the challenges presented by new forms of human trafficking, a Fine Gael Senator has said. Barry Ward, who is Fine Gael’s Seanad Justice spokesperson, is calling for increased discretion for judges in the sentencing of criminals engaging in human trafficking.

Senator Ward said: “This week we saw appalling details emerge during the trials of the people, including four Irish men, for the deaths of 39 trafficking victims found in a trailer in Essex in 2019.

“We must now understand that people trafficking can take various forms and represent more serious offences than perhaps previously envisaged by Irish law.

“We can see the horrors and human cost that offences in this category can cause. We must therefore give judges the discretion they need to hand down appropriate penalties in cases where such behaviour results in the enormity of what we saw happen to these 39 victims. This can be addressed as part of the proposed Criminal Justice (Smuggling of Persons) Bill 2020.”

The General Scheme of that Bill was approved by the Government last July and the legislation is designed to implement three international legal instruments in the area of people smuggling:

  1. the EU Council Directive 2002/90/EC defining the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence;
  2. the EU Framework Decision 2002/946/JHA on the strengthening of the penal framework to prevent the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence; and
  3. the UN Protocol against the smuggling of migrants by land, sea and air, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, adopted in November 2000.

Senator Ward continued, “Although welcome, this legislative proposal only provides for a maximum sentence of 10 years (in section 5) for the ‘facilitation of unlawful entry, transit and presence’.

“I am seeking to amend this to ensure we bring Irish law up to speed with new and more serious forms of human trafficking. Judges must have discretion to ensure sentencing fits the severity of the crime.

“As an island nation, with increasing international links that don’t involve transit through the United Kingdom, Ireland will become a more likely destination for people-smugglers. We must not allow a situation where our laws, and our criminal courts, are not equipped to bring the full force of the law against people who trade in the lives of vulnerable victims.”

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