CURRENT TRAFFICKING RELATED LAWS AFFECTS PROSECUTION OF CASES
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Rachel Olutimayin has stated that the prosecution of people trafficking related cases in the country is difficult as related laws are outdated.
In an interview with SIBC News, DPP Olutimayin said the country’s people trafficking related laws need to be reviewed.
She explained that for most trafficking related cases, people are not charged as evidence provided by the Police is not enough to prove elements of people trafficking as required by some of the current legislations.
“Most of the time we may not find an offence related to trafficking because the elements and the facts do not match. So, you must have evidence to prove each of the elements of offence.
“If there is no evidence to prove the elements, it is difficult to charge and that is why many times we do not charge. Even if there is evidence, the evidence must be enough to sustain all elements of the offenses,” she said.
Solomon Islands currently have two legislations with two provisions each to prosecute trafficking related cases.
These are the current Immigration Act and the Penal Code (Amendment) (Sexual Offences) Act 2016.
Under the Immigration Act, people trafficking carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, or fine of $90,000, or both if the victim is under 18 years, and an imprisonment of 5 years, or fine of $45,000 or both for others.
The Act also stated that a person who engages in people trafficking is liable to a fine of $90,000 or 10-years imprisonment, or both, when the victim is under the age of 18 years.
Under the Penal Code (Amendment) (Sexual Offences) Act of 2016, Internal People Trafficking carries a maximum penalty of 25 years if the complainant is under 18 years of age and 20 years imprisonment for others.
A person committing the offence of Procuration under this Act is liable for 20 years imprisonment if the complainant is under 15 years of age and 15 years imprisonment if the complainant is between 15 and 18 years of age.
Mrs. Olutimayin stated that a review of the Immigration Act could avoid imposing minor penalties which do not reflect the severity of actions to offenders.
“So, you see the difference between the Immigration Act and the new provision in sexual offences is that it has tougher penalties because you want to discourage people from committing those offenses.
“To be able to prosecute cases with the Immigration Act, it needs to be amended so the offenses related directly to trafficking can be prosecuted. Now when we cannot find offences that are related to trafficking, we use procuring children and using children for sexual gratification under Procuration,” she said.
There has only been one successful prosecution of a trafficking related case in the country which involved an expatriate and several local girls.
DPP Olutimayin said the case was heard in the High Court and was only successful as most of the actions committed were recorded, so evidence was provided to prove the elements of offenses in that case.
However, the case was not prosecuted under the Immigration Act but under the Procuration Offence.
Meanwhile, Deputy Director of Immigration Mr. Christopher Akosawa also stated that the Immigration Act needs to be reviewed as it is too broad to use as a legislation for trafficking related offences.
“When the Immigration Act was introduced for trafficking, we borrowed the UN definition of the Act so the whole definition is used to form part of the law. What our laws failed to do is, it does not criminalize separate offences under the Immigration Act.
“So, it is difficult to prosecute cases as there are separate actions committed in trafficking offences.”
Mr. Akosawa said the act is now being reviewed.
“The Immigration act is now being reviewed and we will also be reviewing the trafficking legislation to become a stand-alone legislation, so that although a person may not be convicted for sexual exploitation, they can be prosecuted for transportation or recruiting if they recruited or harbor the complainant.”
DPP Olutimayin also confirmed that they are working with the Ministry responsible to review the Immigration Act.
“They are already working on reviewing the Act, and they have gotten to the stage of consultations with stakeholders.
The review will capture the offences that are created under the current Act including the experiences on how and why we failed. They are going to make the offences better and provable,” Ms Olutimayin said.
The current Immigration Act was enacted in 2012.