News & Events

The scourge of human trafficking has been garnering a lot of attention in recent times, not just abroad but also right here at home. On 2nd November 2023, Trinidad and Tobago recorded its first conviction for a human trafficking offence. The offender, Anthony Smith, was convicted of five (5) counts of trafficking of a child and was sentenced to fifteen (15) years imprisonment on each count. This conviction, while it came as a laudable victory for some, remained a mystery to others. Notwithstanding the fact that Trinidad and Tobago has had enacted legislation criminalizing human trafficking since 2011 and an established Counter-Trafficking Unit since 2013, it appears that many citizens are still in the dark as to what this all means. 

With all the discussion circulating about incidents of human trafficking, here’s some general information that you should know.

What is human trafficking?

The Trafficking in Persons Act Chap 12:10 criminalises trafficking in persons, with a specific emphasis on women and children. Trafficking in persons generally refers to the recruitment, transportation, harbouring or receipt of persons for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation covers a range of activities including compelling or causing a person to provide forced labour or services, prostitution, any form of commercial sexual exploitation and deriving a benefit through the abuse of that person. 

While one of the expressed aims of the Act is to promote the protection of women and children, these categories of persons generally being considered vulnerable persons, this does not mean that only women and children can be victims of human trafficking. The Act holistically seeks to prevent and combat trafficking in all persons by providing protection and assistance to the victims of trafficking and facilitating the efficient investigation of trafficking cases.

Are there different types of human trafficking?

The Act provides broadly for “trafficking in persons” and “trafficking in children”. While a distinction is made between persons and children, both offences involve the recruitment, transportation or harbouring of the individual for the purpose of exploitation. As we have already seen, exploitation is a far-reaching concept that covers a wide span of activities. Recruiting, transferring, transporting or harbouring a person or child with a view to engaging in one of these activities is considered an offence under the Act.

Who can be charged for human trafficking?

Part V of the Act specifies the main criminal offences related to human trafficking activities. Anyone who commits any of these offences may be charged under the Act. These offences include trafficking in persons and trafficking in children. It is important to note that human trafficking activities can also include the unlawful destruction or concealment of a travel document, or other government identification belonging to another person as well as knowingly receiving financial benefits from trafficking activities.


Who are the victims of human trafficking?

The Act describes a victim as a person against whom an offence is committed or is alleged to have been committed. This therefore means that there is no specific race, gender or nationality of person that can be defined as a victim. Trinidad and Tobago nationals can face the risk of becoming victims in the same way that non-nationals do. 

What is the penalty for human trafficking?

For the main offences of trafficking in persons and trafficking in children, the prescribed penalties are as follows:

  • Trafficking in persons - a fine of not less than five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000 TTD) and imprisonment of not less than fifteen (15) years;
  • Trafficking in children – a fine of not less than one million dollars ($1,000,000 TTD) and imprisonment of not less than twenty (20) years.

For the offence of unlawfully destroying or concealing a travel document, there is a fine of three hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($350,000 TTD) and imprisonment for twelve years. For the offence of knowingly receiving financial benefits from trafficking activities, if the trafficking activity related to a child, the penalty is a fine of five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000 TTD) and imprisonment for twenty (20) years. On the other hand, if the trafficking activity related to an adult, the penalty is a fine of four hundred thousand dollars ($400,000 TTD) and imprisonment for fifteen (15) years.

Trinidad and Tobago’s anti-trafficking law therefore provides a wide net to capture a range of illicit activities. In addition to the passage of this legislation, Trinidad and Tobago has made and continues to make significant strides toward the prevention of human trafficking and the protection of its victims. The Counter Trafficking Unit has established a toll- free hotline through which the public can report possible cases of human trafficking (800-4288). 

The Courts through a Practice Direction (No. 12 of 2023) have implemented special criminal court procedures for human trafficking matters, and most recently, in February 2024, the Counter Trafficking Unit announced plans to implement a new digital system to help in the fight against human trafficking by developing a repository for human trafficking data. 

While more can always be done in the pursuit of justice and the protection of rights and freedoms, it is important to take note of where we are and how far we’ve come. 

Submitted by:

Whitney Franklin 
Public Defender 11 Senior
Public Defenders’ Department 
Legal Aid and Advisory Authority,
23 Stanmore Avenue, Port of Spain.
Contact: 638-5222 
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Published in the Trinidad Express on Tuesday 21st May, 2024