Five sex-traffic court cases in 2010
Figures reveal very low prosecution rate despite NGO's claims that number of victims has risen
DEPARTMENT of Justice figures on sex trafficking prosecutions by gardai for last year do not appear to suggest that there is major organised human trafficking in Ireland.
The figures from the Department of Justice's Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, set up in 2008, reported that there were 36 cases, involving 34 females and two males, referred to gardai last year for investigation.
Twenty-nine of the 36 people claimed to have been trafficked into Ireland for "reasons of sexual exploitation". The other seven alleged that they had been brought into Ireland to become victims of labour exploitation.
The Department's figures showed that there was a very low prosecution rate in alleged trafficking cases. Gardai completed investigations in 35 cases but sent only seven files to the Director of Public Prosecutions, leading to five cases being brought to court.
The prosecutions were taken under two acts: the 1998 Child Trafficking and Pornography Act and the 2008 Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act. The department recorded that a 10-year and a six-year sentence were handed down in the two cases taken under the 1998 Act.
However, the Department's report did not reveal that both these cases referred to two Irish paedophiles and that the victims or intended victims were Irish children. The 10-year sentence was handed down in March last year to a Dublin man who took pornographic images of a two-year-old girl and a one-year-old boy, which he traded on the internet with other paedophiles. He was not named in order to protect the identity of the victims.
In the other case, former garda Kieran O'Halloran, with an address in Foxrock, Co Dublin, was sentenced to six years in jail in November for soliciting a 13-year-old girl, also Irish, for sex.
In the three other cases, brought under the 2008 Trafficking Act, suspended sentences were handed down, the report recorded. Details of these were not available and it was unclear if they involved foreigners or Irish citizens.
One statistic in the Department's report was that of the 29 women (21 of them African) claiming to have been brought here by traffickers for the sex trade, 18 were seeking asylum.
Last week the main non-government agency dealing with prostitutes, Ruhama, issued its annual report saying that it dealt with 204 women and claimed a 9 per cent increase in "victims of trafficking" from 2009 to 80, 49 of them said to be from Nigeria.
It stated: "The statistics reveal the globalised nature of the Irish sex trade, with the women supported by Ruhama in 2010 coming from 31 different countries."
Sarah Benson, Ruhama's chief executive officer, said, "This truly exemplifies the global nature of prostitution and trafficking and reflects the complexity of a frontline response such as that offered by Ruhama.
"We are constantly adapting to ensure that we are mindful and respectful of the diverse cultural backgrounds of the women accessing our services."
Ms Benson added: "While the women who Ruhama works with come from very diverse backgrounds and have had different experiences, they also often have a great deal in common -- most are vulnerable migrant women or marginalised Irish nationals, they have experienced economic difficulties, especially debt; and some have addiction or childhood abuse issues."
Ruhama is among a number of groups seeking a change to Irish law to have men prosecuted for paying or attempting to pay for sex.
She said: "The focus has rightly turned in recent times, from the women and girls, and the small number of men and boys who are in prostitution, towards those who are profiting. This includes, of course, the buyers. The sex trade is a multi-million euro industry in Ireland fuelled by their demand. A positive step in overcoming this growth in the sex trade would be to stem demand by criminalising the buyers through legislative change."