New Laws To Target Child Sex Predators
New measures are being introduced to tighten up the law on the sex-offenders register and to combat the sexual grooming of children.
Senior officials from the Department of Justice are currently studying a series of legislative changes, which will make it easier for the gardai to crack down on sexual predators.
It was initially planned to include the measures in the Criminal Law (human trafficking) bill, which is being debated by the Dail at present.
But, as some of the proposals needed further examination, it was decided to withdraw them from the bill to allow the trafficking legislation be put in place before the end of the year.
However, Justice Minister Brian Lenihan pledged last night that the provisions protecting children from sexual exploitation would not be forgotten.
He said they would be expanded to take account of the recommendations contained in the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on child protection.
The delay will also allow officials an opportunity to review the existing operation of the Sex Offenders Act 2001.
It is expected that this review will lead to a reduction in the time within which sex offenders must notify the gardai of their whereabouts, after their release from prison.
The notification period at present in this country is seven days, but this is likely to be reduced to five days, in line with the requirements in neighbouring police jurisdictions.
This follows allegations that sex offenders were attracted to this country because they regarded the operation of the register more lax here than in Northern Ireland or Britain.
One official said last night: “As the notification requirements have been in existence for six years, it is also an appropriate time to review their operation generally, to identify any gaps and improve their implementation”.
Officials are also examining a sexual offences amendment act, which became law last March, with the aim of cracking down further on sexual grooming of children.
It is expected that the law will be expanded to take account of developments in technology and measures dealing with grooming and will now include tougher powers to tackle the use of mobile telephones and the internet.
The changes will copper-fasten a new offence introduced into Irish law of meeting or travelling to meet a child, following grooming.
Gardai are also being given the powers to detain suspects for questioning about soliciting children for prostitution.
Suspects could not be arrested for interrogation in the past because the soliciting was deemed to be a summary offence, which therefore could be dealt with only in the district court.
Now it will become an indictable offence, with penalties on conviction ranging up to five years imprisonment.