Committee is briefed on trafficking bill

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The NI Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) briefed the committee on the human rights aspects of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill, on 16 January 2014.

David Russell of NIHRC voiced the commission's concern about the level of protection afforded to children by the bill.

He said the clause outlawing the purchase of sex, in combination with certain aspects of the current law outlawing paying for sex with children, would make it easier to prosecute persons who pay to have sex with adults than those who pay to have sex with children.

Jim Wells of the DUP wanted to know if NIHRC supported the clause outlawing paying for sex.

David Russell explained that the commission favoured measures designed to protect the vulnerable in society.

"We think the principle of Clause 6 is welcome," he said.

Representatives of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation also gave a briefing on the trafficking bill.

Mr Neil Jarman, of the Institute for Conflict Research, had carried out research in Northern Ireland for the foundation.

He said they were interested in forced labour rather then the Clause 6 aspect of the bill.

Mr Jarman said there was a problem with forced labour in Northern Ireland.

He identified agriculture, recycling and the fishing industry as particular areas of concern.

Three Department of Justice officials briefed members on "proposals to strengthen the response to human trafficking and slavery".

Earlier in the meeting, NI Judicial Appointments Ombudsman Karamjit Singh briefed the committee on the judicial appointments process.

In November 2013, the committee was briefed by Judge Desmond Marrinan who accused the NI Judicial Appointments Commission (NIJAC) of acting illegally in not appointing him as a high court judge.

Mr Singh explained that he would be constrained in what he could say and that it was important to maintain a balance "between transparency and confidentiality".

The committee questioned the ombudsman with regard to the broader principles of judicial appointments.

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