Bill has 'minimalist approach' to human trafficking


DUP MLAs have criticised the Criminal Justice Bill for adopting what they called a "minimalist approach" to human trafficking, on 19 February 2013.

Lord Morrow expressed his "great disappointment" at the approach taken to comply with the EU directive on trafficking.

He said his private member's bill aimed to fill "the many gaps in this bill".

The Assembly was debating the consideration stage of the Criminal Justice Bill.

The bill covers three areas of criminal law; the sex offenders register, human trafficking, and fingerprints and DNA profiling.

It aims to introduce new offences in connection with human trafficking in line with European legislation.

The debate was opened by the Justice Minister, David Ford, who outlined some of the amendments regarding the requirement of sex offenders to inform police in advance of their travel plans, and of a requirement for human trafficking offences to be tried in the Crown Court.

Paul Givan of the DUP, who chairs the Justice Committee, acknowledged the need for the bill but said the committee did not not support certain aspects regarding the right of sex offenders to appeal their inclusion on the register after a given period of time.

He also criticised what he described as a "piecemeal approach" to human trafficking legislation.

Sinn Fein MLAs spoke in support of the sex offenders and trafficking sections of the bill.

Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott said Northern Ireland should not be seen as "soft on crimes, or soft on criminals".

Alban Maginness of the SDLP and Stewart Dickson of Alliance both spoke in favour of these parts of the bill.

Justice Minister David Ford said that although members had raised concerns about the fact that there had been only two convictions for human trafficking in Northern Ireland, the courts did take it seriously.

"We do not want Northern Ireland seen as a friendly place for traffickers but I do not think that this is the case," he said.

The first group of amendments on Sex Offender Notification and Human Trafficking were passed.

Paul Givan then spoke on the committee's proposed amendment to abolish the "archaic" and "virtually obsolete" offence of scandalising the court.

The offence is a form of contempt of court that has not been successfully prosecuted since 1931.

In 2012, Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin brought a prosecution against the former Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Hain, for this offence following comments he made in his autobiography, Outside In, in which he criticised a judge.

The case was dropped after Mr Hain clarified his remarks.

The debate continued after Question Time.

The second part of the debate can be viewed here.

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