Main legislation


Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008

The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 became operational on 7 June 2008 and introduced the crime of human trafficking into Irish criminal law for the first time. The legislation provides for penalties of up to life imprisonment and, at the discretion of the court, an unlimited fine for trafficking of persons for the purposes of labour or sexual exploitation or for the removal of a person’s organs. The 2008 Act builds on the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998.

Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Act 2013

The 2008 Act was subsequently amended by the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment ) Act 2013 which gives effect to EU Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims. The Act:

Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998

The Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 already makes provision for trafficking of children for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 amends the 1998 Act by amending the definition of a child to a person under the age of 18. It also raised the maximum penalty on conviction from 14 years to life imprisonment.

Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 was enacted on 22 February 2017. The Act enhances and updates laws to combat the sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children, including new offences relating to child sexual grooming and new and strengthened offences to tackle child pornography. The Act also criminalises the purchase of sexual services, introduces new provisions regarding the giving of evidence by victims in sexual offence trials and introduces a new offence addressing public indecency. Other provisions include maintaining the age of consent to sexual activity at 17 years of age and for a new “proximity of age” defence as well as a statutory statement of the law as regards consent to sexual acts.


Other legislation


Sexual Offences (Jurisdiction) Act 1996

The Sexual Offences (Jurisdiction) Act 1996 allows for the prosecution of an Irish citizen, or a person ordinarily resident in the State, who commits an act in another country which is a sexual offence against a child in that other country and if done within the State, would constitute a sexual offence against a child in the State. The penalties are a maximum of 5 years imprisonment on conviction on indictment.

Criminal Justice Act 1999

Under Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999, it is an offence to harm, threaten, menace or in any other way intimidate or frighten any person who is assisting the Garda Síochána in the investigation of an offence with the intention of causing the investigation or course of justice to be obstructed, interfered with or perverted.

Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000

Under the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000 it is an offence for a person to organise or knowingly facilitate the entry into Ireland of another person whom that person knows or has reasonable cause to believe is an illegal immigrant. The penalty on conviction on indictment for this offence is a maximum of 10 years imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both. This Act is used to prosecute offences which occurred before the enactment of the 2008 Act. 

The distinction between "people smuggling" and "human trafficking" is highlighted under Trafficking or Smuggling?. This act is used to prosecute case that fall under the "smuggling" umbrella.

Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011

The Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 amends the Civil Legal Aid Act 2005 and allows the Legal Aid Board to provide victims with legal advice in criminal matters and in particular all through the criminal justice process to ensure that the victim is protected and advised of his/her role as witness (the 2005 Act permits the Legal Aid Board to give advice in relation to civil matters).

Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017

The Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 gives effect to the EU Directive 2012/29/EU, establishing minimum standards on the rights, supports and protection of victims of crime. The Act aims to support the participation of victims in criminal proceedings by placing them at the centre of the criminal justice process. Under the Act, certain rights are guaranteed to victims through a criminal justice investigation and later through various criminal justice processes. The Act ensures that victims receive information, support and protection and are treated in a respectful and professional manner. Victims of human trafficking are to be given particular consideration.


Child protection legislation

The protection of children is provided for in the Child Care Acts 1991 to 2007 and in the The Children First Act 2015 (the Act).


Employment legislation


In addition to the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking Act) 2008, the entire range of statutory employment rights and protections available in Ireland are applicable equally to foreign nationals and Irish workers. Legislation of relevance to suspected victims trafficked for the purposes of forced labour includes the following:

The Organisation and Working Time Act 1997 
The National Minimum Wage Act 2000 
The Unfair Dismissals Acts 1997 to 2005 
The Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2004

The Employment Permits Act 2003 and the Employment Permits Act 2006 introduced a revised legislative basis for work permits, including penalties for employers for illegal employment of non-nationals. These Acts provide legislative protection against the labour exploitation of non-nationals:

The Payment of Wages Act 1991 
The Protection of Employees’ (Part-Time) Work Act 2001