The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The Crimes Act of 1961, as amended, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Section 98D (trafficking in persons) criminalized all forms of labor trafficking and some forms of sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment, a fine not exceeding 500,000 New Zealand dollars (NZD) ($335,570), or both. Inconsistent with international law, Section 98D required a demonstration of deception or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense, and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking; this inconsistency may have hampered the government’s ability to effectively investigate the sex trafficking of children. However, Section 98AA criminalized all forms of child sex trafficking under its “dealing in persons” provision and prescribed penalties of up 14 years’ imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and commensurate with the penalties imposed for rape. The government also utilized Sections 20 and 21 of the Prostitution Reform Act (PRA), which criminalized the facilitating, assisting, causing, or encouraging a child to provide commercial sex, in addition to receiving earnings from commercial sex acts provided by a child. The PRA prescribed a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment for the sex trafficking of children.
During the reporting period, the government initiated two labor trafficking investigations, initiated five prosecutions (three for labor and two for sex trafficking), and obtained eight convictions (three for labor and five for sex trafficking); this was compared to three investigations, six prosecutions, and two convictions in the previous reporting period. Officials continued investigations of six cases of suspected labor exploitation during the reporting period. The government initiated its fourth prosecution under the trafficking statute in 2018, but did not obtain any convictions under this law. Courts convicted five individuals in three child sex trafficking cases under the PRA; their sentences ranged from nine months’ home detention to 10 years and three months’ imprisonment. Authorities continued to report that a lack of sufficient resources, as well as high evidentiary and procedural standards, resulted in prosecutors charging some suspected traffickers under different statutes, including non-criminal labor violations. For example, the labor inspectorate investigated forced labor complaints but was limited to working within the civil legal system. The immigration agency’s serious offences unit investigated trafficking cases but were limited to investigating only those cases in which immigration violations were also identified. The government did not report vigorously investigating perpetrators of domestic trafficking, including of those who exploit New Zealand children in sex trafficking. New Zealand Police required anti-trafficking training for all criminal investigators and included a trafficking and smuggling chapter in its police manual; the government did not report training prosecutors or judiciary officials. Police and immigration officials cooperated with authorities in Samoa and Fiji on two separate trafficking investigations; these efforts resulted in the arrest of one suspected trafficker by Fijian authorities in August 2018. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses.