IHREC Publish Submission on Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Human Trafficking) Bill 2023

Commission cites five crucial areas requiring amendments

In July of this year, the Department of Justice published the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences and Human Trafficking) Bill 2023. This proposed Bill marks an important and significant step in ensuring a victim-centred National Referral Mechanism (‘NRM’) in law. The second stage of this Bill will be debated today (Wednesday 4th October).

While the Commission welcomed many aspects of the proposed Bill, particularly recognition of specialist NGO’s as ‘Trusted Partners’ in the identification of potential victims, we expressed concerns at a number of crucial gaps in the proposed legislation that must be addressed in order to guarantee victims of human trafficking adequate protection and support.

Having undertaken a full review of the Bill, we have outlined five areas where amendments could further support early identification and appropriate assistance to victims of human trafficking in Ireland.

We believe the identification assessment threshold has been raised by requiring the application to be ‘credible’ in addition to the assessment of ‘reasonable grounds’, which contravenes the jurisprudence of the Irish courts, the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive, the Council of Europe Directive and the OSCE.

We recommend that the Bill provide for trafficking-specific assistance and supports, separate from the International Protection framework. In this context, we highlight the problematic conflation of two distinct frameworks, International Protection and Human Trafficking.

We have also continuously highlighted the need to have equal and unconditional access to assistance for all victims of trafficking, irrespective of their immigration status and nationality. We therefore recommend that the Bill be amended to provide for immigration permissions for presumed and identified victims of trafficking who are third country nationals.

Children are among the most vulnerable victims of trafficking. We are deeply concerned by the absence of any age-estimation assessment process in the identification and assistance of child victims.  We recommend that the Bill be amended to provide for age-estimation assessments, and that responsibility for these be assigned to an appropriate agency, such as Tusla. This Bill should also be amended to ensure the Children First Act fully protects children from all forms of trafficking.

Finally, as traffickers often use the threat of prosecution as a means of control, victims are afraid to come forward. We recommend that the Bill be amended to include a statutory defence for victims of trafficking where they have committed crimes as a direct consequence of them being trafficked. This was also a significant recommendation of the Joint Committee in the Pre-Legislative Scrutiny Report.

Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney said:

“Human trafficking is now a multi-billion growth industry, targeting the most vulnerable of people, worldwide and here in Ireland, particularly migrant women and children.

It is so often a hidden crime, as victims do not come forward due to fear of traffickers or arrest, as well as language barriers, immigration status and other difficulties.

It is crucial that victims, or potential victims of this horrific crime, are adequately supported and protected in every way possible by the laws of the State, if we are ever to eradicate the scourge of human trafficking.”


For further information, please contact:

Sarah Clarkin, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 852 9641 / 087 468 7760


Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Editor’s Note

You can read our submission here:


https://www.ihrec.ie/documents/submission-on-the-criminal-law-sexual-offences-and-human-trafficking-bill-2023 (Word Doc)

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

National Rapporteur on the Trafficking of Human Beings

In October 2020, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission became Ireland’s Independent National Rapporteur on the Trafficking of Human Beings. Under Article 19 of the European Union (EU) Anti-Trafficking Directive, all EU Member States are legally required to have National Rapporteurs or equivalent mechanisms. The Directive requires the National Rapporteur to assess trends in trafficking in human beings, measure results of anti-trafficking actions, gather statistics (including in co-operation with relevant civil society organisations), and to report.