Stewart Dickson MLA said: “This Bill will send out a strong message against those behind human trafficking. My Alliance Party colleagues have worked tirelessly to combat this problem; Anna Lo MLA, who established the Assembly Group on human trafficking; Naomi Long MP, who is keeping it on the agenda in Westminster; and David Ford as Justice Minister who has introduced legislation and awareness campaigns to deal with this horrible crime.
“Alliance welcomes that Lord Morrow shares our commitment to tackling this issue. However, we have several concerns with different aspects of this Bill.
“There could be serious implications for judicial discretion with the minimum sentencing guidelines outlined in this Bill. A judge needs to be free to make the most appropriate ruling in each case based on his or her assessment of the particular offender, crime, victims and circumstances.
“I am also concerned by the proposal for the equal treatment of children and adults involved in human trafficking. Children should not be subject to the same sentences as adults, which is why I believe that this Bill is not ‘in the best interests of the child’ as demanded by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. There may also be serious consequences from the proposed changes to the law on prostitution which could push it further underground and prevent victims from contacting the police for fear of prosecution.
“We will be supporting this Bill at its Second Stage but will seek to make significant changes as it progresses through the Assembly.”