Media release, Wednesday 11th March 2015
Two Vietnamese men were released today (11.03.15) after a Carlow Circuit Criminal Court judge found serious flaws in a Garda investigation of trafficking.
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) today welcomed the acquittal of two Vietnamese men, Hung Ba Tran and Hoang Hu Vo, accused of offences related to the cultivation of cannabis in Ireland.
In an unprecedented judgment, the men were acquitted due to failures in the Garda investigation of human trafficking claims. Judge Alice Doyle highlighted the fundamental unfairness that the Gardaí who investigated the underlying offence are the same Gardaí who investigated the complaints of human trafficking. MRCI experts who assessed the cases believe the men may have been trafficked and forced to work in a cannabis growhouse in Carlow
Gráinne O’Toole of the MRCI stated, “This judgment vindicates what we have been saying for some time now: it is a clear conflict of interest for the Gardaí investigating potential drugs crimes to also be tasked with conducting trafficking assessments. It requires Gardaí to simultaneously treat an individual as a suspected criminal and a suspected victim. This could be easily resolved by ensuring all trafficking investigations are carried out by independent experts.”
Ms O’Toole continued, “We are delighted that these men have been freed. They spent a year in custody awaiting trial, which in itself is a gross violation of their rights. Now they must be formally identified as victims of trafficking. There are others in prison awaiting trial under the same conditions; it is imperative that their cases are properly assessed for indicators of trafficking to ensure that Ireland is not jailing victims of trafficking and forced labour.”
Chris Hogan of Poe Kiely Hogan Lanigan, solicitor for the accused, also welcomed the decision.
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland is now working with the freed men to ensure their safety.
Case name: (L00295/0112) (Legal Aid) (The D.P.P. -v- Hung Ba Tran The D.P.P. -v- Hoang Hu Vo)
Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) supports trafficking victims in Ireland and conducts formal assessments of trafficking and forced labour. MRCI highlighted the increasing trend of human trafficking for cannabis cultivation, serious sentencing discrepancies, and the State’s failure to respond, in the 2014 report Trafficking for Forced Labour in Cannabis Cultivation.
Report and summary available at: http://www.mrci.ie/resources/publications/trafficking-for-forced-labour-in-cannabis-cultivation-the-case-of-ireland/