Two vietnamese men who were accused of growing cannabis have been freed after a judge found gardaí had failed to investigate whether the men had been trafficked to Ireland.
Judge Alice Doyle at Carlow District Court today acquitted two Vietnamese men, Hung Ba Tran and Hoang Hu Vo, accused of offences related to the cultivation of cannabis in Ireland.
The men were acquitted due to failures in the Garda investigation of human trafficking claims.
Judge Doyle said that it was unfair that the gardaí who investigated the underlying offence are the same gardaí who investigated the complaints of human trafficking. Experts from the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland who assessed the cases believe the men may have been trafficked and forced to work in a cannabis growhouse in Carlow.
Gráinne O’Toole of the MRCI said the judgement vindicated their stance and showed the need for an independent assessment of alleged trafficking cases.
“This judgement vindicates what we have been saying for some time now: it is a clear conflict of interest for the gardaí investigating potential drugs crimes to also be tasked with conducting trafficking assessments.
“It requires gardaí to simultaneously treat an individual as a suspected criminal and a suspected victim. This could be easily resolved by ensuring all trafficking investigations are carried out by independent experts.”
The men spent a year in custody and must now be formally identified as victims of trafficking, O’Toole says. She says that many cannabis grow houses may be homes to trafficking victims.
There are others in prison awaiting trial under the same conditions; it is imperative that their cases are properly assessed for indicators of trafficking to ensure that Ireland is not jailing victims of trafficking and forced labour.
Chris Hogan of Poe Kiely Hogan Lanigan, solicitor for the two accused, also welcomed the decision.
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland says it is “now working with the freed men to ensure their safety”.