Wednesday, 1 December 2021
Criminal Justice (Smuggling of Persons) Bill 2021 [Seanad]: Committee Stage (Resumed)
The person would be entitled to use that as a defence and be entitled to an acquittal. What the Deputy is proposing is that the status quoremains. While the Bill provides not even a risk of someone who may be acting for humanitarian reasons being prosecuted, the Deputy's amendment would maintain the situation where there is no risk to smugglers being prosecuted.
Our priority here is not to increase penalties on smugglers. Our priority is to protect the vulnerable people who are exploited by smugglers, and the way to do that is to convict the smugglers. That is what we are attempting to do here. We have had what the Deputy is proposing for the last 20 years and it has not been effective at protecting the vulnerable people. It has been effective at protecting the smugglers. We are saying that what has happened to date is not working. We are simply saying that for anybody to say "I am acting out of humanitarian assistance" acts as a bar to prosecution. That, if anything, makes the situation even worse than what is there at the moment. That is our position on it.