The government maintained limited prosecution efforts. The 2010 Trafficking in Persons (Prevention) Act criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine for offenses involving an adult victim and up to 25 years’ imprisonment and a fine for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape.
The government initiated five trafficking investigations during the reporting period, one for sex trafficking, one for labor trafficking, and three for unspecified exploitation; this compared with zero investigations during the previous reporting period and 10 in 2019. The government did not report initiating any prosecutions for the second consecutive year, compared to three prosecutions in 2019. Authorities continued to prosecute three suspected traffickers from 2018; all three were on bail. The government did not convict any traffickers for the third consecutive year. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses; in past reporting periods, police officers reportedly received administrative sanctions instead of being tried under the trafficking law. Authorities directed all police units, including those investigating trafficking cases, to continue to enforce pandemic-related restrictions, including nighttime curfews and the closure of bars, clubs, and other social venues; law enforcement also experienced personnel shortages due to the pandemic.
The government reported courts experienced reduced capacity and interruptions due to the imposition of pandemic protocols, thereby limiting the number of cases of all types that could be prosecuted during the reporting period. The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal in St. Lucia continued with virtual appeal hearings without disruptions and could hear trafficking and other cases. The pandemic significantly disrupted the national courts’ criminal division. The government reported that serious criminal cases, including trafficking cases, required in-person jury trials unless the defendant was pleading guilty or in rare instances where the case involved no witnesses. As jury trials by law could not take place remotely, authorities prosecuted almost no trafficking or other serious criminal cases for the entire reporting period after jury trials ceased in March 2020 due to the pandemic. The government reported this led to substantial court backlogs, exacerbating already existing substantial delays.
The Trafficking in Persons Prevention Unit (TIP Unit) included four full-time staff and an unspecified number of law enforcement officers drawn from the police, immigration service, Coast Guard, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, all of whom were knowledgeable about trafficking, victim services, and investigations. The TIP Unit served as the investigative arm of the national coordinating body, the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention) Committee (TPPC), and was solely responsible for investigating trafficking, implementing the national trafficking prevention objectives, and increasing anti-trafficking awareness efforts to improve overall efficiency. Due to the pandemic, the government suspended random inspections of businesses suspected of being involved in commercial sex.