Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group

Justice – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 28 June 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David Hilditch David Hilditch DUP 2:45, 28 June 2010

7. asked the Minister of Justice for his assessment of the ‘Wrong Kind of Victim?’ report by the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group.         (AQO 1487/10)

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

I welcome the positive and helpful report. Human trafficking is nothing less than modern-day slavery, and it is vital that we continue to raise public awareness of the suffering caused by those who seek to profit from the exploitation of the vulnerable. My officials participated in the background research leading to the report’s publication on 16 June, and I will consider carefully the recommendations that fall within my remit.

Photo of David Hilditch David Hilditch DUP

I thank the Minister for his answer. The report contains pointed criticisms of how the agency treated victims and how the perpetrators remain free. I believe that no charges were levied. What steps are being taken to increase the number of prosecutions while providing more support for the victims?

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

Mr Hilditch has highlighted a serious issue. I understand that just two people have been charged with the offence of trafficking for sexual exploitation and that the cases are currently proceeding through the courts. Although the Chief Constable has assured me that the police are doing all that they can in that area, as we all know, in order to bring charges and obtain convictions, the police need evidence and witnesses who are willing to testify in court. Unfortunately, many of the women who are recovered choose not to testify. Once rescued, many simply decide to go home to their families while, in other cases, witnesses have disappeared. There is certainly no disinclination on the part of the relevant agencies to take prosecutions forward, but there is a real difficulty in getting the necessary witness evidence.

Photo of Anna Lo Anna Lo Alliance

One of the report’s criticisms is that victims of human trafficking are prosecuted while the real criminals continue to profit. Can the Minister tell me whether those arrested in recent cannabis raids in Northern Ireland are being prosecuted as criminals or treated as potential victims of crime?

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

I am afraid that my colleague has caught me out on that one, but I will ensure that I write to her about the matter.

Photo of Danny Kinahan Danny Kinahan UUP

Can the Minister provide the House with an evaluation of the support package that is provided to victims of human trafficking in Northern Ireland? Can he also give us an indication as to whether his Department will continue to finance that package, which I believe runs out in September?

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

I thank Mr Kinahan for those rather easier questions. As he correctly says, the pilot scheme runs out in September. It was recently evaluated, and, although the evaluation identified areas in which improvements could be made, the overall conclusion was that we had met the standards set out in the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. For example, a victim who has been through the pilot scheme supported that assertion. Not only was she satisfied with the care that she received, but she has been successfully reintegrated into society and is living in independent accommodation and serving the community as a volunteer. I hope to put in place a more permanent scheme after the pilot runs out on 30 September.