Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Human Trafficking and Slavery Offenders in Australia

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Human Trafficking and Slavery Offenders in Australia

Article excerpt

The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (the Trafficking Protocol) came into force in 2003 under the umbrella of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC). Since then, a growing number of countries, including Australia, have introduced or strengthened laws that criminalise a range of practices related to human trafficking. In Australia, between 1 January 2004 and 30 June 2012, 15 offenders (involving at least 37 victims and 9 schemes) have been convicted of trafficking in persons, slavery and slaverylike offences. Given the relatively recent focus on these types of crimes, there has been little research on offenders in Australia or internationally (Aronowitz, Theuermann &Tyurykanova 2010; David 2012).

This paper presents the first analysis of convicted offenders in Australian cases. It provides an overview of the limited international literature on offenders in trafficking in persons, slavery and slavery-like crimes before analysing the characteristics of convicted offences in Australian cases. Although there have only been a small number of convictions in Australia, this paper provides the first analysis of the characteristics of Australian offenders and identifies the similarities and differences between offending in the Australian context and elsewhere. The conclusion identifies how these findings may inform strategies to prevent and deter offending.

The legal framework

A central element of Australia's response to human trafficking is identifying and prosecuting offenders for crimes of human trafficking, slavery and slave-like practices. These crimes all involve extreme forms of exploitation and are often described as akin to a 'modern form of slavery' (UNODC 2009: 6). While laws prohibiting slavery have a long history internationally (Gallagher 2010), it was the entry into force of the Trafficking Protocol in 2003 that led many countries, including Australia, to introduce new laws to criminalise human trafficking, slavery and slave-like practices.

Under the Trafficking Protocol, adult men and women are trafficked if they are recruited, moved, harboured or received through the use of threats, force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception or abuse of power, or because of a position of vulnerability, for the purpose of exploitation. In this context, exploitation includes forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery and servitude. In the case of a child, trafficking requires only two elements-the action and the purpose of exploitation.

While the crimes of slavery, servitude, forced labour and trafficking in persons differ in their precise legal elements (Gallagher 2010), they all aim to prohibit exploitative conduct that deprives the victim of basic rights and freedoms. In this paper, the term 'human trafficking and slavery crimes' should be understood to refer to a range of offences contained in divisions 270 and 271 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 (the Criminal Code).

Australia's response to human trafficking, slavery and slave-like practices has evolved over the past decade. Since the introduction of human trafficking and slavery offences into Divisions 270 and 271 of the Criminal Code, the practical experience of investigating and prosecuting human trafficking and slavery in Australia has confirmed that, contrary to popular stereotypes, human trafficking is not a problem unique to the sex industry and occurs in a diverse range of settings (APTIDC 2012).

The recently enacted Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Act 2013 expands the existing range of offences against slavery and human trafficking by establishing new offences of forced labour, forced marriage, organ trafficking and harbouring a victim. It also extends the application of existing offences of deceptive recruiting and sexual servitude so they also apply to forms of servitude and deceptive recruiting outside the sex industry. …

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