Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking are heinous crimes that can affect anyone, of any age, gender or nationality. Criminals and organised crime groups seek to exploit and abuse vulnerable people for their own gains, and it is vital that we maximise our collective efforts to address and eradicate this form of criminality.
There have been significant developments in the overall response to this criminality since 2015 when the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) was introduced. It is essential that progress continues, to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to assess and mitigate the threat posed by ruthless organised criminal groups and provide support and assistance to victims of these terrible crimes.
In May 2021, the Department published the 2021/22 Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Strategy for Northern Ireland set out under three strands, to pursue offenders, protect victims and prevent these crimes from occurring.
This consultation document outlines a range of additional tools that could be utilised to help address the scourge of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking in today’s society. The views expressed during the public consultation will help to develop these measures, including possible enhancements to the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015.
Your views are vital in helping to develop proposals for consideration by an incoming Justice Minister and Executive in the new mandate, in order to ensure that justice partners can avail of a wider range of measures to bring to justice those seeking to exploit defenceless, vulnerable people in our society. We must also continue to strive to provide identified victims with the appropriate level of protection and support.
This is an important issue, and your views will help shape the criminal justice response to slavery and trafficking offences.