Ms P, a 54-year-old Vietnamese woman, was trafficked to Ireland
and forced to work in a cannabis growhouse (see picture above)at an industrial estate in west Dublin. In November 2012, gardaí raided the premises, which was locked from the outside with padlocks and steel roller shutters.
Inside, they found the woman in a small bedroom adjacent to the rooms containing the plants and she was arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance with intent to supply. Gardaí claim the total market value of the cannabis plants was €940,800.
Officers subsequently failed to identify the Vietnamese woman as a victim of human trafficking and she has spent the past two and a half years in prison awaiting trial for a crime other people forced her to commit.
During interviews with the Gardaí, the woman had given an account of her time at the growhouse. She had been there for a month and her job had been to turn the heat lights on and off at specified times. Food was brought to her by men who “made it clear to her that she was not allowed to leave the building”. The woman said she had expected a job cleaning or minding children when she was brought to the country.
A sergeant at Store Street Garda Station had told the woman’s solicitor that it was possible she may have been a victim of human trafficking and had mentioned it in an application for an extension of her detention. However the woman was still charged and has been awaiting
In her judgement today, Justice Iseult O’Malley found failures in the garda investigation and in State policies and procedures for identifying victims of human trafficking. She said what happened in this case is “not satisfactory”, pointing out that it is now two years since the woman first sought a decision on the issue.
Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) conducted a full assessment of the woman’s case and found her to be a victim of trafficking. They appeared at the High Court as expert witnesses.
Legal officer Virginija Petrauskaite said today the organisation is delighted with the result and said the State must now ensure Ms P’s immediate release. She added that the Vietnamese woman now needs “support and protection after her long ordeal”.