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Criminal Justice Response

An Garda Síochána

In 2015, An Garda Síochána in their Annual Policing Plan identify trafficking in human beings as one of their priorities with increased priority given to prevention and detection of human trafficking. It has been identified as a policing priority since 2009.


An Garda Síochána has placed particular importance on ensuring that its members receive training which will equip them to tackle the phenomenon of human trafficking. A continuous professional development training course entitled ‘Tackling Trafficking in Human Beings: Prevention, Protection and Prosecution’ has been designed by An Garda Síochána. The International Organisation for Migration, the United Nations, the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit and the Health Services Executive (HSE) together with NGOs such as Ruhama, Migrants Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) and the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) assist in the delivery of this training to front-line Gardaí. Training includes victim identification through recognising indicators of trafficking in human beings.

The aim of the course is to alert operational personnel within An Garda Síochána to the existence of the phenomenon of trafficking and to empower them to identify victims so as to provide for their wellbeing and to ensure initiation of criminal investigations, where appropriate. Members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, UK Borders Agency and London Metropolitan Police have attended this training and the former Head of the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre, who is now working with the United Nations on measures to address human trafficking, has presented at each of these training courses emphasising the international and cross-border co-operation between police forces.

To date over 1113 operational Garda personnel have received this detailed training to enable them identify and refer victims of human trafficking for support and to deal with prosecutions, if appropriate. In addition a further 3,500 members of An Garda Síochána have received awareness-raising training relating to human trafficking. The training now forms a module on the training programme for all recruits to An Garda Síochána.

A web based portal is now available on the Garda computer system. Every Garda Officer can access a step-by-step guide on what to do if s/he suspects a person to be a victim of human trafficking.


Since the enactment of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act, 2008 a concerted effort has been made by An Garda Síochána to vigorously prosecute offenders of this crime and efforts in this regard will continue into the future. In excess of 200 allegations of human trafficking have been referred to An Garda Síochána. About two thirds of these investigations have been completed. In the vast majority of these cases insufficient evidence of trafficking in human beings has been found to sustain a prosecution.

However, prosecutions in themselves should not be the sole measure of the effectiveness of law enforcement. Account must also be taken of:

    • policing measures aimed at prevention and creating a hostile environment for traffickers and

    • international co-operation and information sharing resulting in a conviction in another jurisdiction for offences which took place in this jurisdiction.
International Co-operation

While in many cases the Garda Síochána will, due to the international nature of this issue, engage in investigations, sometimes of a comprehensive nature, the arresting, charging and convicting of suspects will take place in another jurisdiction. Some examples of this include Operations Abbey and Sibling and cases in Lithuania and the Netherlands as follows:
    • Operation Sibling (2009) the Gardaí were involved in a joint operation with the Romanian police force which resulted in the prosecution of 3 Romanian nationals in Romania for trafficking of human beings for the purpose of labour exploitation as well as other types of organised crimes like organisation of a criminal syndicate, money laundering and fire arms offences. The 28 persons who were trafficked to Ireland were paid low wages, threatened, beaten and sometimes held at gunpoint. The gang leader was sentenced to 7 years and his co-accused to 5 years each.

    • Operation Abbey (2009) saw the prosecution of an Irish national and two members of his family for the organisation of brothels across Ireland and the UK in which trafficked women from Nigeria were being exploited, two of whom were trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation when they were still minors. The accused were charged with offences of human trafficking, prostitution and money laundering. They were convicted on the latter two charges and given sentences of 7 years, 3½ years and 2 years imprisonment in Wales. A confiscation order for €2.2 million was also handed down by the Courts in the UK. Charges of human trafficking remain on file.

    • Lithuania: 2 suspects were charged and sentenced on suspicion that they were receiving funds from Ireland as part of their involvement in human trafficking. Information was provided by the Irish authorities to the Lithuanian authorities on money transfers from Ireland to some of the suspects in the investigation. On 11 February 2010 one of the suspects was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for human trafficking offences and a second suspect who received funds from Ireland was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment for human trafficking offences on the same date.
    • Netherlands: In 2008 a suspected international child trafficker was arrested in Ireland and transferred to the Netherlands, under the European Arrest Warrant Scheme. He absconded after being granted bail by the Dutch authorities but his trial took place in his absence in October 2010. Multiple charges of child trafficking for sexual exploitation were preferred. This person was sentenced to 7 years in his absence by the Dutch courts.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)

The DPP has nominated particular prosecutors to deal with cases of human trafficking and has issued them with guidelines. The purpose of these guidelines is to guide prosecutors in examining which factors are to be considered in assessing whether to commence or continue with a prosecution including a consideration as to whether the public interest is served by the prosecution of a victim of human trafficking who has been compelled to commit offences (e.g. immigration or sexual offences) as a result of being trafficked.


Other relevant legislation

Administrative Framework

Consultative Structure

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