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Police get beefed-up powers to tackle maritime human trafficking

Published 06/01/2016

Police have increased powers under new legislation
Police have increased powers under new legislation

Tough new powers to tackle modern slavery at sea are due to be introduced in Northern Ireland early this year.

They will help PSNI constables and enforcement officers investigate suspected maritime human trafficking or slavery offences. Officers will be able to board, divert and detain a vessel, to make arrests and seize relevant evidence when probing a potential modern slavery crime.

Victims can be trafficked illegally on vessels, and also may be the subject of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour on board vessels, official reports have found.

The DoJ said: "It is anticipated that these powers will be commenced in early 2016."

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 will give law enforcement officers across the UK new abilities to pursue modern slavery perpetrators at sea.

A code of practice is being prepared ahead of implementation of the law in Northern Ireland.

Use of the powers by Northern Ireland constables and enforcement officers are limited to UK ships or foreign vessels in Northern Ireland waters for pursuing human trafficking and exploitation.

Since April 2015, the PSNI has had a dedicated Human Trafficking Unit. The unit is the service's central point of expertise, providing 24/7 support to frontline officers and other agencies and has conducted proactive operations to disrupt forced labour and sexual exploitation.

Modern slavery encompasses human trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour.

A UK modern slavery helpline is to be launched later this year.

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