An Exploration of the Profile and Characteristics of Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland: Human Trafficking

Emma Richmond, Twylla Cunningham, Campbell Killick

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Human trafficking and modern slavery remain an evolving research topic because of the complex and ‘illicit’ nature of this type of offending, which relies primarily on victim compliance to avoid detection. Worldwide, the exact number of victims of human trafficking is unknown because of the ‘hidden’ profile of such criminal activity. The International Labour Organisation (2017) estimated that worldwide, on any day in 2016, there were 40 million victims of modern slavery. This is likely a significant under-representation due to the implicit need for secrecy and for victims to be ‘hidden’, sometimes in ‘plain sight’, from the local communities within which they are being ‘held’ by the perpetrators. The focus of this study was to develop a profile of perpetrators within Northern Ireland and to explore coercive control tactics to inform assessment of risk and the development of appropriate offence-focused intervention(s). This paper explores key themes that were identified through the completion of a retrospective content analysis of case files accessed through the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI)’s case management system. An audit tool was created which supported identification of three key themes: perpetrator perspective, victim vulnerabilities, and coercion/control tactics. The information collated from the case files supports the creation of evidence-based training to develop practitioner skills in assessing risks associated with this type of offending, succinct analysis within court reports and creation of tailored interventions to engage service-users who have been convicted of human-trafficking offences. This study has also identified themes which will aid in the potential creation of specific programmes of work with service-users, with the focus on reducing the creation of further victims from this type of offending.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-136
Number of pages17
JournalIrish Probation Journal
Issue number1
Early online date25 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 25 Nov 2022


  • Human trafficking
  • modern slavery.
  • perpetrator
  • victims
  • exploitation


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