High Court finds serious failures in Garda investigation of trafficking for forced labour in cannabis growhouse
Today (Wednesday 15 April 2015) the High Court ruled that Gardaí failed to identify a victim of human trafficking, resulting in the imprisonment of a trafficked woman in Mountjoy for two and a half years.
Ms. P., a 54-year-old Vietnamese woman, was trafficked to Ireland and forced to work in a cannabis growhouse in west Dublin. On November 20th 2012, Gardaí raided the growhouse, which was locked from the outside with padlocks, and found Ms P. in a small bedroom adjacent to the rooms containing cannabis plants.
Gardaí subsequently failed to identify Ms P. as a victim of human trafficking. Ms P. has spent the past two and a half years in prison awaiting trial for a crime she was forced to commit.
Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley found failures in the Garda investigation and in State policies and procedures for identifying victims of human trafficking. In her judgment, she stated
- “From any point of view what has happened in this case is not satisfactory.”
- “In my view this case demonstrates a number of fundamental difficulties with the mechanism [for identifying victims of trafficking] in place in this State…”
- “It follows that the current mechanism, such as it is, must be held to be inadequate in terms of the transposition of the [EU] Directive.*”
- “In this particular case, no theory has been put forward by the respondents [the Gardaí] which would plausibly explain the fact that the applicant [Ms P.] was locked into the premises in circumstances that would not suggest that she was in control of the situation.”
Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) conducted a full assessment of Ms P.’s case, found her to be a victim of trafficking, and appeared at the High Court as expert witnesses.
MRCI Legal Officer Virginija Petrauskaite stated, “We are delighted with this landmark judgment. The State must now formally identify Ms P. as victim of trafficking and ensure her immediate release from custody; she needs support and protection after her long ordeal.”
Wendy Lyon of KOD Lyons, solicitors for Ms P., stated, “The arrangements as they stand give far too much discretion to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) in identifying potential victims of trafficking. This has been particularly problematic for trafficked people facing prosecution. While I still have concerns about the Gardaí being responsible for the identification process at all, introducing the rules or protocols the Court has called for should at least introduce greater transparency and fairness into the process. I hope the Minister will address this as a priority.”
Ms Petrauskaite continued, “This comprehensive judgment reinforces what we have been advising the Department of Justice for a number of years. Gardaí cannot identify victims of trafficking while simultaneously investigating them for drug crimes. An independent expert should be appointed to identify victims of trafficking, which would allow An Garda Síochána to get on with their criminal investigations.”
Ms Petrauskaite concluded, “Unfortunately, Ms P.’s case is not an isolated one. Just last month in Carlow Court, two Vietnamese men were acquitted of drug crimes after a whole year in prison, as again the Gardaí had failed to properly assess them as victims of trafficking. There are many others in prison awaiting trial under the same conditions; it is imperative that their cases are reviewed by an independent expert, such as a judge or similar authority, so that they can be properly assessed for indicators of trafficking to ensure that Ireland is not jailing victims of trafficking for forced labour.”
Aoife Murphy, MRCI Communications 086 368 7901
Case name: P. v the Chief Superintendent of the Garda National Immigration Bureau, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Ireland and the Attorney General [2013/795 JR] Judgment available in full at http://www.mrci.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2015-04-15-P-v-Ireland-Judgment.pdf
*DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL 2011/36/EU, of 5 April 2011, on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims.