Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

Human Trafficking and Slavery

Human Trafficking and Slavery

Human trafficking encompasses a range of offences including those that involve people being moved domestically or across international borders for the purposes of exploitation. It also includes offences in which people already in Australia are subjected to exploitative practices like slavery, servitude, forced labour or forced marriage.

Human trafficking offences differ from people smuggling, which generally involves the movement of people across borders, usually on a payment-for-service basis, but not for the purposes of exploitation of the victim by the offender.

It is difficult to determine the true level of human trafficking in Australia due to the clandestine nature of this crime along with probable high levels of under-reporting. Australia is a known destination country for victims of trafficking particularly from Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Korea.

Slavery and Slavery-like offences including Forced Marriage

Slavery involves exercising rights of ownership over another including from a debt or contract. Slavery-like offences include servitude, forced labour, deceptive recruiting and forced marriage.

To date, the majority of victims identified by Australian authorities and matters we have prosecuted have involved women working in the sex industry. However increasingly, victims of other forms of labour exploitation are being identified including in the agricultural, construction and hospitality industries.

Forced marriage occurs where one person enters into the marriage without freely and fully consenting due to their will being overborne or due to incapacity. Causing a person to enter into a forced marriage or being party to a forced marriage are serious criminal offences. They are punishable by a maximum penalty of 7 years’ imprisonment or 9 years’ imprisonment for the aggravated offence if the victim is aged under 18 or in other specified situations.

Offences in this area are contained in Divisions 270 and 271 of the Criminal Code and cover the following types of offences:

  • slavery
  • servitude
  • forced marriage
  • forced labour
  • deceptive recruiting
  • trafficking in persons
  • debt bondage
  • organ trafficking
  • offences involving non-citizens working in Australia without the correct visa.

Key legislation

Main offences

  • s.270.3(1) Criminal Code—slavery
  • s 270.5 Criminal Code – servitude
  • s 270.7B Criminal Code – forced marriage
  • s.270.6A(1) Criminal Code—forced labour
  • s.271.2 Criminal Code—trafficking in persons.

Penalties

  • The maximum penalty for an offence of slavery is 25 years’ imprisonment
  • The maximum penalty for an offence of forced labour is 12 years’ imprisonment for an aggravated offence and 9 years’ imprisonment in any other case
  • The maximum penalty for an offence of trafficking in persons reckless as to exploitation is 12 years’ imprisonment.

Assistance for victims

We recognise the important role victims of crime play in prosecution proceedings, and this is reflected in our Victims of Crime Policy.

Our Witness Assistance Service provides vulnerable victims of crime with information and support. In accordance with the Witness Assistance Service Referral Guidelines that are set out in a National Legal Direction, all victims of slavery and sexual servitude offences must be referred to the Witness Assistance Service so appropriate information and support is available throughout the prosecution process.

Law Reform

Significant law reform regarding offences occurred in 2013 when the Criminal Code was amended by the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Act 2013, Significant law reform regarding protections for vulnerable witnesses occurred when the Crimes Act 1914 was amended by Crimes Legislation Amendment (Law Enforcement Integrity, Vulnerable Witness Protection and Other Measures) Act 2013.

Since then, CDPP has provided input to policy makers about the operation of this legislation.

While not directly impacting on offence provisions, the Modern Slavery Act 2018 is another significant legislative reform in this area on which CDPP was consulted through the labour exploitation working group.

Parliamentary Inquiries, Civil Society, Reporting and International Engagement

CDPP regularly provides information to Government and Parliament about human trafficking and slavery prosecutions and the operation of the Criminal Code offences and Crimes Act vulnerable witness protections. CDPP representatives are members of the Operational Working Group and Labour Exploitation Working Group. Through those forums, we provide input into whole-of-government responses to international trafficking reports and to Parliamentary Inquiries. We regularly engage with civil society though bodies such as the National Roundtable on Human Trafficking. CDPP prosecutors and the Witness Assistance Service provide information and training domestically about human trafficking prosecutions and assisting victims and witnesses through the criminal justice process. Through the Australian Government we continue to engage with regional neighbours and international bodies to share our experience of prosecutions and case studies.

Partner agencies

Non-government agencies

  • CDPP contributes to the National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery which includes representatives of civil society.
  • CDPP liaises with the Support for Trafficked People Program.

Significant cases

Child trafficking - DPP (Cth) v McIntosh (a pseudonym) [2016] VCC 622

Trafficking in Persons – R v Lay Foon KHOO, District Court of Western Australia 2016

Servitude – R v Yu-Hao HUANG, R v Bo-Syuan CHEN District court of Queensland 8 February 2017

Slavery – R v Wei Tang [2008] HCA 39 and (2009) 23 VR 332