Trafficking of Women and Children in Ireland

A report prepared by a research team from NUI Galway and released today includes findings that human trafficking is a more significant problem in Ireland than sometimes intimated by the Government (RTÉ News).

The timing of the report, which is available here, is interesting coming as it does just a week after the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform commenced the long-awaited Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill 2007 and only a few weeks after the Gardaí began work on Pantameter 2 (considered here).

The Bill incorporates the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in part and takes into the EU Council Framework Decision on combating trafficking in persons, and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons of the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

The Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill explains its purpose thus:

The primary purpose of the Bill is to create offences criminalising trafficking in persons for the specific purposes of their sexual or labour exploitation or the removal of their organs and to provide severe penalties for anyone found guilty of committing the offences. The offences are in line with international norms….It also criminalises the selling or purchasing of human beings, both children and adults, for any purpose. The sale of children for the purpose of exploitation is a requirement of the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

In relation to children, the Bill complements the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 which already criminalises the trafficking (and organisation of trafficking) of children for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

New Frontiers in Public Consultation

The New Zealand government has recently opened a wiki (i.e. an online page where anyone can make revisions and suggest phrasing) for the country’s Policing Act, intended to substantially revise the Police Act 1958. According to Superintendent Hamish McCardle, who is overseeing the legislative review, this “novel” approach to public consultation “will yeild a range of views from people interested in having a direct say on the shape of a new Policing Act” (NZ Police press release).

This is a truly innovative approach to law-making and given that the proposals will gop before a parliamentary committee and the Bill will proceed in the normal parliamentary fashion following the closure of the wiki-page there should be relatively little risk of unwise, overly reactive or sensational provisions being enacted (at least, it is unlikely that the risk is greater than normal). This strategy appears to take ‘participatory democracy’ to a potentially exciting level and, with the appropriate safeguards, ought to act as an interesting experiment for other governments to consider.