Allister Backs Trafficking Bill

Admin —  September 24, 2013

Below is the speech by Jim Allister in support of the human trafficking bill:

“I support the Bill and will vote for its Second Stage. I commend Lord Morrow on his initiative and tenacity in bringing the Bill. He will have discovered that private Member’s legislation is a long and torturous route. I commend him for getting to this point. I have to caution him that there is a long and torturous road ahead as well, but, no doubt, I am sure that he will navigate that successfully.

“It has to be indisputable that trafficking of human beings is one of the most odious and horrendous of crimes that man can commit against man. Yet it is clear that, usually for the motivation of financial gain, it is far more prevalent than any of us probably imagine or like even to think about.

“It is also indisputable, I would have thought, that there is a direct link between human trafficking and the sex industry. Yes, there are other purposes for human trafficking, but it would appear that its predominant purpose is to connect to the sex industry. Therefore, I totally fail to understand how the previous Member who spoke could complain about this legislation making that connection and say that it should be opposed because it connects prostitution and people trafficking. That is an overwhelming reason to connect the two in the one Bill to make sure that it is a joined-up approach, not a disparate, disconnected approach where you do one thing one day with no regard to anything else and maybe, at some stage in the future, deal with that other issue, when the two issues are indisputably intertwined. So, it is right, sensible and necessary that the Bill addresses those issues, and it does so in a number of ways.

“It does not create any new trafficking offence; however, it strengthens the ambit of all of that. That is good and necessary. I support those measures.

“Then it moves to how it can, perhaps, deal with lessening the allurement of Northern Ireland as a human-trafficking destination by making it more difficult to engage in the end product, namely prostitution. I am sure that none of us in this House thinks that, by passing clause 6, we will end payment for sex in Northern Ireland, just as by passing legislation that states that you should drive at 30 mph or 60 mph, we will stop speeding. Of course, we will not. It is about creating the atmosphere and the circumstances in which the trafficker, when he has a choice to make and all of Europe is his option, says, “I will not go to Northern Ireland because it is a cold house for prostitution.” I want unashamedly to see Northern Ireland made a cold house for prostitution because that will inevitably have the knock-on consequence of being a deterrent and a discouragement to human trafficking. The two are inextricably linked, and it is right that they are linked in the Bill.

“Yes; that does require the criminalisation of sex for cash. Some people ask whether we need that. Do we not have legislation that states that sex for cash, where the provider has been coerced, is already illegal? Yes; on paper, under article 64(a) of the 2008 order as amended, it is already illegal. However, as we heard in the debate, the problem is that there have been no prosecutions. Why have there been no prosecutions? It is because it is a very difficult issue to bring home. However, if you make the act of sex for cash illegal, you make it much easier to prosecute and, in fact, much more difficult for those who are tempted to go into trafficking by creating a cold house for them. That is why it is right to go down that particular road.

“I therefore support the principles of the Bill very much. I have a few random observations about some of that which tends towards the detail. Staying with clause 6, I ponder why, in that clause, the Bill goes out of its way to say that, whereas it shall be a criminal offence for the user of prostitution services to make that use, the provider of those services has effective immunity. Clause 6(4) states:

“For the avoidance of doubt, person B is not guilty of aiding, abetting or counselling the commission of an offence under this article.”

“There are two issues with that. We do not thereby make it any easier to bring a successful prosecution against the user because, in many criminal investigations, it is the availability of the possibility of charging someone with aiding and abetting that often provides them as a prosecution witness and proves the offence against the main player. There is a problem with saying through this Bill, “Here is blanket immunity for any provider of prostitution services”, when some of those providers have a false sense of loyalty to those who put them in that position, or fear what will become of them in a foreign land, or are reluctant to name names or to do anything that might create problems. If you say to those people, “You will have total immunity. You will never be charged with aiding and abetting”, I respectfully suggest that you may well be undermining the possibility of effective prosecution action against the user. Therefore, I do not see the necessity and the logic for the inclusion of clause 6(4).

“I also make the point that, at one look, it could almost create a charter for soliciting, because if the provider of services can never be convicted of aiding and abetting the transaction — that is providing sex for cash — where is the restraint when it comes to soliciting for that? There is none. Well, there is an article in the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 that states that if you persistently solicit in a public place more than twice in three months, you are guilty of soliciting. That apart, and given that most episodes of prostitution take place not in a public place but elsewhere, we are effectively saying to the provider of services, “With your immunity comes the opportunity to solicit.” That, I think, is something that the sponsor should look at in considering the rationale for clause 6(4).

“Clause 6 recites the terms of article 64A of the 2008 order, and the explanatory document says that it will be a hybrid offence, but the language of 64A points towards it being a summary offence, because it talks about penalties that are available within the summary jurisdiction, namely a fine or imprisonment for up to 12 months. The range under an indictable offence would be well above that. So where is the manifestation in the Bill that clause 6 is to be a hybrid offence? I am not sure that it is there.

“I want to make another couple of observations on the Bill. Clause 8 states:

“Where the victim (A) has committed a criminal act as a direct consequence of the trafficking in human beings, no prosecution or imposition of penalties shall occur if —”

“It then sets out the criteria: threats, abduction, fraud, deception etc. I really do not understand why it says:

“no prosecution or imposition of penalties shall occur”.

“You could not have an imposition of penalties without a successful prosecution. Is the sponsor driving at saying, “No conviction shall occur if A has been compelled to commit the sexual acts as a direct consequence of being subjected to threats, abduction, fraud, deception etc”? If that is what the sponsor intends, that would improve clause 8 because, as it stands, it does not seem desirable to me to say that no prosecution shall take place if there have been threats, abduction etc because the whole purpose of a prosecution is often to test what the facts are. Have there have verifiable threats? Has there been fraud? Has there been an abduction? I think that the proper starting point in clause 8 should be that no conviction shall occur if any of those listed things are proven to be the case.

“I will comment on clause 11, which is about compensation. It states:

“The Department shall, by order, set out⁠—
(a) the procedures to be adopted whereby a person shall be able to apply for compensation if he or she has been determined to be a victim”.

“Determined by whom? Are we talking about a determination on foot of court proceedings or about someone running a compensation scheme making a determination — that is, someone in an office? Who makes the determination of a victim? Indeed, is it anticipated that there can be a victim without a conviction, or is this someone who is demonstrably a victim because there has been a successful prosecution? Clarity on that might be of some benefit.

“That said, this is a good Bill that is pulling together two issues and moving in the right direction. It will not be a panacea. No legislation is capable of being a panacea in the vexed area of prostitution, but it is a proper, necessary, good step in the right direction, and I commend the sponsor and look forward to voting for the Bill.”

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