Members of the House of Representatives, on Wednesday November 3, passed the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression and Punishment) (Amendment) Act 2021, creating tougher penalties for offenders.
The decision was made to amend the monetary penalties to remove the option of fines in lieu of custodial sentences as a penalty for certain offences that are egregious in nature and increase the monetary penalties under Section 15 of the Act.
The amendment also makes a consequential amendment to Section 10 of the Child Care and Protection Act to remove the option of fine in lieu of custodial sentence.
Minister of National Security, Dr Horace Chang, in closing the debate on the bill, said that the Government is creating a legal framework that punishes human trafficking, while deterring persons from getting involved in the criminal activity.
He said that trafficking in persons is a heinous activity, which provides significant funding to the criminal underworld.
“While it is not yet a major activity in Jamaica, we are in a position where it could become another major risk to the State, in providing the kind of funding to the criminal underworld, which we don’t wish to have,” he pointed out.
The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression and Punishment) Act was passed in 2007 and amended in 2013 to increase the penalties. It was again amended in 2018 to enable a judge to try trafficking offences without a jury.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that, globally, trafficking in persons generates approximately US$150 billion in profits each year.
The legislation is to be sent to the Senate for its approval.