Belfast Telegraph

New front in war on human trafficking

By Mairead Lavery

Human traffickers are modern slavemasters and trade on violence, threats, coercion, exploitation and isolation to ensure the compliance of vulnerable victims.

Human trafficking investigations and prosecutions are complex, not least because of the power traffickers wield.

But the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) is committed to working with its partners to help combat this trade and bring traffickers before the courts.

Today, Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland Barra McGrory QC is meeting prosecuting authorities from across the UK to sign an agreement that will ensure greater co-operation against traffickers.

This event fulfils a promise made in 2014 when the heads of the prosecuting authorities for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland met in Edinburgh and promised to agree a series of commitments to tackle this far-reaching crime together.

The result is the UK Prosecutor Commitments, which they are launching jointly in London today.

The commitments focus on key areas of mutual benefit. For example, we have pledged to keep the welfare of victims and witnesses as a focus and to ensure they are provided with all available legal measures to enable them to assist the prosecution process.

We also collectively recognise the vital role that non-governmental organisations play, particularly in supporting victims.

We will continue to work closely on all aspects of human trafficking, which stretch across UK borders and beyond. We will share information and guidance.

In short, we will work together and learn from each other so we can disrupt traffickers.

The PPS receives a small number of human trafficking files compared to other serious offences. But we know that this global problem is happening here in Northern Ireland.

We are committed to working in co-operation with our partners, both locally and internationally, to disrupt networks, prosecute traffickers and safeguard victims' rights within the criminal justice process.

  • Mairead Lavery is a senior public prosecutor in the PPS' serious crime unit and is policy lead in human trafficking

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