Victims of trafficking don’t need more trauma - they deserve justice
2015-10-15 15:37:10 -
Human Rights

Patricia Stapleton


As stated by Anti-Slavery International, slavery did not end with abolition in the 19th century. It still exists today and it takes many forms. Human trafficking is just one form of ‘modern day slavery’; other types that occur globally include descent-based slavery, bonded labour, child slavery, early and forced marriage, and forced labour.


Human trafficking in Ireland takes many forms. This includes women, men and children trafficked for sexual exploitation, labour exploitation and forced labour, forced criminality, forced and sham marriage, and domestic servitude.


For most victims the trauma experienced during exploitation is enough to prevent them from accessing justice. For those brave enough to face the courts and a criminal investigation, the system can seem daunting and can potentially re-traumatise and cause additional frustration and anxiety.


While there have been few notable prosecutions in Ireland against traffickers – the TJ Carroll case being one of the few lauded cases, even though he was prosecuted in Wales – the majority of victims never see their traffickers prosecuted. In reality most victims never make it inside a courtroom. On several occasions victims have been prosecuted for their role in the trafficking situation, which goes against the spirit of international protocol and conventions to which Ireland is signatory.


One example is the recent P case. A Vietnamese woman was prosecuted and held on remand for drug possession even though she was found locked inside a cannabis factory and effectively enslaved for a prolonged period. This woman was arrested and placed in detention; she was basically criminalised for her own enslavement.


Access to justice is complicated. Arguably Ireland has strong anti-trafficking laws in place which should easily be used to prosecute traffickers. However, in practice this has proved almost impossible. The majority of convictions for trafficking have been against those that have abused Irish minors, and for crimes that do not involve commercial sexual exploitation. Therefore, as has been argued on numerous occasions, the Irish anti-trafficking legislation is not fit for purpose.


Human trafficking is a gross violation of human rights; it is an abuse that affects human dignity, the very worth of a person. To buy and sell another human being is utterly dehumanising; it is a form of social death. Often people spend months or even years in a position of slavery, and when they leave the trauma of exploitation they are often faced with a dilemma: either co-operate with a criminal investigation or face being returned home. For most people this is not an option, as most have left home to seek a better life, and to return home empty-handed, abused and traumatised is out of the question.


As an organisation that works directly with people affected by human trafficking, we here at Doras Luimní know of the extreme difficulties that confront people as they try to re-build their lives. They require great emotional and psychological support; they need safe and appropriate accommodation; they deserve justice for the crimes committed against them.


So how can things change to better support victims? In the months ahead we recommend enhanced protection of victims’ rights with the implementation of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill. We anticipate greater support and cooperation for victims with the new Child Protection and Human Exploitation unit at An Garda Síochána. We also anticipate changes to the Irish anti-trafficking legislation in light of the recent P case. 


Victims of trafficking should not be prosecuted for crimes they were forced to commit as a direct result of being trafficked. This goes against the EU Directive 2011/36/EU, and the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings. Victims need to be supported, they don’t need any additional trauma. They deserve justice.



Patricia Stapleton is anti-trafficking officer with Limerick-based migrant rights NGO Doras Luimní. Contact Patricia at 061 310 328 or or visit

TAGS : Anti-Slavery International Human Trafficking
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