The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has welcomed a bill aimed at providing support for victims of human trafficking, but has warned that it still lacks some “crucial protections”.
Earlier this week, the Government approved the publication of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences and Human Trafficking) Bill 2023.
IHREC said that the proposed legislation would, for the first time, put into law an identification and support process for victims of trafficking, and strengthen the protections for victims of sexual assaults.
It described the bill’s recognition of specialist NGOs (non-governmental organisations) as ‘trusted partners’ and the plan for a multi-agency identification process as “significant and positive reforms”.
Protection from prosecution
The commission particularly welcomed the inclusion of an appeals process for victims in the bill.
The body warned, however, that there was still no statutory protection from prosecution for victims of human trafficking – where a person has committed a crime as a direct consequence of them being trafficked.
It also expressed disappointment that victims of sexual exploitation would not be given the same protections in criminal trials as victims of other sexual offences.
“Choosing not to extend separate legal representation to victims of sex trafficking, if there is an application to question them on their previous sexual experience, once again leaves these victims – who are disproportionately migrant women – with diminished protections in trials,” IHREC said.