I wish to share my time with Deputy Eoin Ryan.
Private Members' Business. - Sexual Offences (Jurisdiction) Bill, 1995: Second Stage.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
This Bill proposes to extend the criminal law of the State to try sexual offences against children committed elsewhere but which, if committed in this State, would constitute a criminal offence by citizens of the State or by persons ordinarily resident within the State. It gives me particular pleasure to move this Bill on behalf of my colleague, Deputy Ryan, and the Fianna Fáil Party not least because for once the Minister for Justice and the Government have been gracious enough to accept a Fianna Fáil Private Members' Bill.
Child sexual abuse is an evil of the 20th century. Tragically an increasing number of these vile types of crimes have come to light in recent years. There is sufficient legislation to deal with child sexual offences committed in this country and it is fair to say that Irish children are given the protection of Irish criminal law. However, it is desirable and necessary for us to recognise that children living in foreign jurisdictions are entitled to the same protection. It is in this context that we put forward the Bill.
Child sex abuse is a very serious international problem and paedophiles travel to other countries where they abuse children. In its report to the United Nations Group on Slavery the Norwegian Government stated that an estimated one million children are forced into this kind of trade every year. It goes without saying that these children are manipulated by evil people who ply human misery and poverty. While 120 states ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child unfortunately the problem of child prostitution is getting worse internationally. The Bill seeks to deal with the global problem of child prostitution and attempts to educate the global community on the depravity of such an offence.
The frightening trade in child prostitution is allegedly more profitable than illegal arms dealing or drug trafficking. It is difficult for people living in a country on the periphery of western Europe to believe that this pernicious trade could be more profitable than illegal arms dealing or drug trafficking, yet that is the international experience. It is also the international experience that there are evil people who are willing to utilise children in this manner for monetary gain. Tragically the age of the children who are being tricked into prostitution is getting younger. Reports by international agencies dealing with the problem state that children as young as four years of age are being forced into prostitution by evil people. It is estimated that up to ten million children could be enslaved in child prostitution, the sex industry generally, sex tourism and pornography.
The trade, if one can call it that, appears to be worse in Asia and Latin America and it is clear to the international community that Thailand is particularly notorious for this type of trade. In recent years there has been a growth in the trade in Africa, North America and Europe, with Eastern Europe emerging as a new market. Report suggests that Romanian children in Germany and Amsterdam who have been driven from their homeland, who are living in deep poverty, who have nowhere to go and have no way of making money, are being driven into this evil and degrading business.
The Bill has been put forward on the basis of common humanity and human rights and the belief that each human being, whether they are Irish, Vietnamese or Filipino, is entitled to the same protection by the international community. Unless serious action is taken by the international community it appears that this despicable trade will continue to increase in the foreseeable future. In Latin America large numbers of street children survive by prostituion and crime. In many cases children are sold into slavery by their debt ridden families. It is difficult to believe that a human being could sell his or her child into slavery, yet this is not only happening but it is happening at an alarming rate. The enactment of this Bill will send a clear message to the international community that this democracy decries this foul trade in human misery where the most innocent and vulnerable are used for monetary gain.
It appears that the sale and trafficking in this trade includes the following: procurers and criminal organisations which sell children to brothels in their own country or abroad; procurers and criminal organisations which supply children to clients; individual paedophiles who acquire children for themselves and paedophile organisations which acquire children for their members. In this context it must be recognised, shocking as it may be, that there is a paedophile information exchange which has been driven underground but which is still very much in existence. It is said that this exchange is one of the most influential in Europe.
Experts in the field agree that effective action is required across the international spectrum. The action which must be taken falls into a number of categories — law enforcement, anti-povery measures, education and AIDS awareness and tourism aid and assistance. In his 1993 United Nations report on the sale of children Professor Muntarbhorn states in paragraphs 151-53:
There is systematic and individual criminality, coupled with corruption, which profiteers from prostitutes in general and child prostitutes in particular. The criminality is part and parcel of a business, at times with a facade for whitewashing the illegal returns. This is a major root cause of child exploitation which has not been sufficiently addressed. At the very worst, children are abducted, drugged and coerced by gangs and syndicates into prostitution both locally and across frontiers. They may also be killed or maimed in the process. The tragedy is aggravated by the advent of AIDS and the various forms of discrimination which arise against child prostitutes faced with this dilemma.
Interestingly, in all the countries studied under this mandate, there are many existing laws which can be used to protect children from prostitution. These vary between special laws on women and children and general criminal laws and codes which also apply to child trafficking and exploitation. Yet in many instances they are not implemented. In practice, the customers tend to be exempted from their application. Those caught by the law tend to be the children and the procurers rather than the consumers, even though the law should be applied to incriminate the latter.
Another serious loophole is that the issue of proper law enforcement has not been tackled directly. More specifically, if the police are badly paid, as is the case in many countries, and if they are untrained to protect children as a "first call", the situation lends itself to their being passive towards the issue of child prostitution in those countries, and some may have a hand in the whole industry as part of an ingrained process.
Sex tours, from so-called tourism trade operates, are available not very far from these shores. In established bookshops in some countries paedophiles may obtain information on where to go to commit what is one of the most criminal offences of all. It is of fundamental importance that legislation be enacted in all western democracies that makes it quite clear that anybody found exploiting a child in this degrading, disgusting and terrible way will face the full rigours of the law in this State or in other western states on his return. Child prostitution and sex tourism must count as the ultimate form of exploitation, a terrible crime against the most vulnerable in society, a crime against humanity.
This Bill will send out a clear message to one and all that our democracy will not accept criminality of this type. Section 2 (1) provides:
Any sexual offence, specified in the Schedule hereto, if committed against a child under the age of 18 years in any other jurisdiction, shall be triable and punishable within this State in accordance with the provisions of section 3 of this Act if——
(a) it is an offence under the law or territory where it occurred, and
(b) it is an offence under the Schedule to this Act, and
(c) it is committed by a citizen of this State or by a person who is ordinarily resident within this State.
The Schedule to the Bill sets out the offences which include:
1. The offence of unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of fifteen years contrary to section 1 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935.
2. The offence of the unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl between the ages of fifteen and seventeen years contrary to section 2 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935.
3. The offence created by section 4 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935.
4. The offence of rape contrary to section 4 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act, 1990.
5. The offence of rape contrary to common law and section 2 of the Criminal Law Rape Act, 1981.
6. The offence of aggravated sexual assault contrary to section 3 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act, 1990.
7. The offence of sexual assault contrary to section 2 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act, 1990.
8. The offence of buggery contrary to section 61 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861.
9. The offence of gross indecency contrary to section 11 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861.
There are similar Bills in other jurisdictions but I submit this Bill goes further. It not only provides that it will be an offence in this State, triable in this State in respect of a sexual offence committed in another state on a person under 18 years of age, but provides in section 3 that any person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the commission of an act that, if done in the State, would constitute an offence specified in the Schedule. Effectively this means that if somebody aids and abets an individual in committing an offence of this kind he will be triable here for that criminal offence. This will send out a signal to tour operators, who to my knowledge are not operating in this State, who may consider opening such a business in this country. Someone who offends in this way will be treated as if he were a pimp for the purposes of the offence and will be punished accordingly. It is important that this signal is sent out very clearly.
The Bill provides also that if anybody attempts to commit the offence he too will be held to be guilty of an offence and will be triable in this State. Where somebody conspires with one or more persons to do an act which if done in this State would constitute an offence specified in the Schedule, that too would be an offence that would be triable in this State. It is fundamentally important that the principle of double jeopardy would not be jeopardised in any way. That is why we specify in section 4 (1) that: "Nothing in this Act shall affect the legal principle of double jeopardy."
We have also incorporated in the Bill Part III of the Criminal Evidence Act, 1992. The House will recall that this provision deals with video link evidence. It is of crucial importance that video link evidence could be made available to a court in this State. This would ensure that people who live in other counties and are not in a position to travel to give evidence would be able to do so by video link. It is of fundamental importance that onlyprima facie cases are brought before the court.
It is important to realise that organisations such as Jubilee working in the international field have publicly said they are investigating cases of this nature and are prepared to gather the evidence and put it together in order to stamp out this trade in human misery. This means that the Bill, for all practical purposes, can be enforced by a court in this country.
In short, this is a fundamental Bill. It will ensure that the State recognises the human rights of children not only in Ireland but internationally. It will send out a clear signal to those considering committing offences of this nature on foreign soil that if there is sufficient evidence they will be tried at home.
If I have a slight reservation about the Bill it is the obligation that the offence be an offence under the law of the territory where it occurred. This provision was inserted in the Bill in the interests of certainty so that an offence in another State would also be a criminal offence here. That rule most frequently exists in extradition law and it was felt necessary to insert it in this legislation. Unfortunately, while it may be difficult to understand or believe, many of the offences listed in the Schedule are not considered offences in some countries. There is a great deal of political and police corruption, as well as corruption in law enforcement agencies, in many countries. This means the children of such countries are corrupted by the adults.
In general, the public will welcome the Bill as an extremely positive measure. It is one of the few Private Members' Bills that will pass through Dáil Éireann. Therefore, it would be unkind of me not to acknowledge the graciousness of the Minister in accepting it. However, other desirable measures introduced by Fianna Fáil in the past year or so were not accepted by the Government. It would have been preferable, for example, if it had agreed to the passage of the criminal law bail Bill or the amendment to the Constitution Bill. I have reached the conclusion of late that the refusal to accept certain measures put forward by Fianna Fáil may not be the fault of the Minister for Justice only. The Labour Party and Democratic Left appear to be at odds with the Fine Gael section of the Government in respect of vital legislation required in the interests of the people.
We in Fianna Fáil are pleased the Government proposes to accept this Bill which deals with a pernicious trade. We are proud to have introduced it as an indication of the people's concern about the violation of human rights. The Bill expresses the people's abhorrence of criminality involving vulnerable children.
I am pleased to be associated with the Bill and thank the Government for agreeing to accept it.
Ireland has been rocked in recent months by revelations of paedophile abuse of young children. A much more sinister opportunity exists for the Irish child sex abuser to practice his horror through organised package holidays to Thailand, Cambodia and other South-East Asian countries that promote sex tourism. For as little as £500, including flight, Irish, British and other north European paedophiles flood into those areas to have sexual relations with children aged between three and 15 years. The betrayal of innocence, the spread of disease and risk of violence to such children by their abusers is a crime against humanity. The Irish people, who were recently awakened to the horrors of paedophilia, must now act to stop and expose such Irish criminals. However difficult and unsettling this action and debate must be for an Ireland that cherishes the child and family, we must not flinch in our obligation to protect such children, be they from Ireland, Asia, Africa, South America or elsewhere.
The Sexual Offences (Jurisdiction) Bill aims to provide the enforcement mechanism to deter child abuse by Irish citizens and residents acting outside Ireland. The legislation is in keeping with our obligation under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which explicitly calls on Governments to take action to prevent child prostitution. Such legislation has already been adopted by the Governments of the United States, Australia, Germany, France, Sweden and Norway and the Governments of Belgium, Japan and New Zealand are considering similar legislation. Ireland must not drag its heels on this issue or it will stand indicted in the eyes of the children it has pledged to protect. There must be no refuge for monsters who prey on defenceless children. As a parent and legislator I know of no more important task than the introduction of this legislation.
The Bill makes sexual offences against children by Irish citizens or residents in other countries punishable in Ireland as if they were committed here. This is a major development in imposing the jurisdiction of the Irish courts on offences committed abroad, and obviously, is not a step taken lightly. Ireland and the international community have already embraced legislation on extradition and other issues, such as war crimes and genocide, that also transcend national borders. We will not interfere with the laws of other countries by introducing this legislation. Rather it will enforce an Irish constitutional and international law that is imperative for the protection of children.
While of itself the law may not deter the most determined child abuser, it should deter many Irish tourists from hiring child prostitutes in places such as Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines. In the murky underworld of child prostitution this law will be a major obstacle. The Irish tourist travelling abroad to solicit under age sex will know the Garda may apprehend him at Dublin Airport, at home or in the work-place. The writ of the State and the long arm of the law will meet the sex tourist on his return home.
Under section 3(2) the Bill also targets the tour organiser and trader in child pornography in this or other jurisdictions who aids, abets, counsels or procures the sexual abuse of children in other countries. Such parasites who prey on the predilection of the paedophile and enslave and destroy children, who are often sold into child prostitution, will be dealt with harshly.
The advertisement in many popular newspapers of exotic and romantic holidays, particularly in South-East Asia, where locals are billed as companionable and easy going is often, but not always, a euphemism for sex tourism. Brochures emphasise a lively night life and may hint at a commerical sex industry.
Some holiday advertisements silently scream: "come where the weather is fine, sex is cheap and available and no questions are asked". We must let it be known that sex with under age and prepubescent children, no matter where it takes place, no matter how far from home or how blurred the circumstances, is child prostitution and paedophilia, it is illegal and will be exposed and the perpetrators will be imprisoned in Ireland.
Child prostitution is one of the most serious social problems in less developed countries. Nobody knows how many child prostitutes there are in these countries. Thailand has an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 and there are an estimated 200,000 Nepalese girls sold into sexual slavery in Indian brothels. It is a serious problem in Brazil and Cuba and there are approximately 60,000 children working as prostitutes in the sex industry in the Philippines. Countries such as Colombia and Sri Lanka have shown a dramatic increase in child prostitution among young boys and girls.
This afternoon the spokesperson for Jubilee, the English group against child prostitution, said millions of children could be involved in this trade and it is a new form of slavery. Children enter prostitution principally because they are poor and deprived. Many have a history of broken homes, alcoholism and physical and sexual abuse by parents. Many did not succeed at school or their families were to poor to care for them or send them to school. In certain communities there is a history of providing prostitutes to the sex industry and money received by the children is used as an alternative source of income in otherwise destitute areas. Other children are naive and hungry for secure relationships and find themselves drawn by pimps and abusers into child prostitution. A significant number are coerced through the trafficking of women and girls into brothels where they are exposed to an unimaginable level of brutality and exploitation. There is a substantial body of information showing children who are sold into bondage by their parents. Under this system the children are held as collatoral for high interest loans given to their parents. The children are used to generate income from sex with visiting tourists.
These are the victims. These are the companionable and easy going locals; this is where sex is available and no questions asked. This is what the paedophile tourist travels for.
Many children manage to preserve a relationship with their families and send money home from their pathetic livelihood to help educate their brothers and sisters and to support their families. Prostitution is easier and apparently safer and far more lucrative than heavy labouring which would be the lot of many young boys. Inevitably prostitution leads the child to lose all self-esteem and to stop thinking about the future. It often leads to bouts of depression and many try to commit suicide. Many live on the streets or in brothels, take drugs and are exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.
In some cases brothel owners give girls drugs to pacify them and make them easier to control. These children face an early death. UNICEF stated they are particularly vulnerable to infection as their bodies are immature and they are more likely to suffer abrasions during sexual activity. This facilitates transmission of the virus. Among many of these young uneducated children AIDS awareness is often low and condoms may not be easily available. Older and physically stronger clients may insist on unportected sex and a child may not be willing to risk losing a valuable client by insisting that a condom be used. Research suggests that sex tourists rarely use condoms and frequently have numerous partners. It will often happen that a sex tourist will be attracted to young prostitutes on the premise that they are less likely to have contracted HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. Unfortunately children from rural areas who work as child prostitutes in the cities in South East Asia may bring the disease back to their village.
We met Fr. Shay Cullen the Irish priest working in Manila who recently appeared on RTE and BBC television programmes. He recently set up an orphanage in Manila for the street children many of whom work as child prostitutes. He travels the streets by night to identify, speak with and, in many cases, bring to the protection of the orphanage those children who are preyed upon by sex tourists. He has seen the pitiable sight of children who have been permanently physically and emotionally damaged by their abusers for as little as £1. At great personal risk he has confronted pimps and recidivist abusers. He has prevailed upon the Filipino Government to take steps and while there is a will to act and certain measures have been put in place, the scale of the problem is so enormous that he has convinced us the problem must be tackled at source. I am happy to say that he told us this afternoon that the Filipino Government is going to take further steps and bring in tougher penalties for child prostitution. It is for reasons promoted by ECPAT and out of conviction, that we presented the Bill to the House. The cycle must be broken.
Due to the economic deprivation of these holiday destinations there will be an endless supply of children to feed the lust and demands of the child abuser. On the other hand, child abusers or sex tourists, who incidentally engage in child abuse by having sex with an under age boy or girl, will know that under this legislation they are punishable on return to their home countries.
Many of the Asian countries to which I referred are taking steps to protect their children and prosecute child abusers but they are confronted by social and economic factors which make their task difficult. While it is not officially acknowledged some of the police and other enforcement agencies have a direct or indirect interest in the sex tourism trade and are slow to act. Similarly tourism in many developing countries generates substantial amounts of foreign currency and these countries may become increasingly reliant on revenue from visitors. Many of them are reluctant to look too closely at the source of this revenue. Many people who use child prostitutes would not do so in Ireland or in their home countries. They feel safe from prosecution and often persuade themselves that sex with children or young adolescents is tolerated in such countries.
The Bill proscribes sexual offences against children committed overseas. These offences carry substantial penalties, including long-terms of imprisonment on conviction. I am conscious that while offences must carry the strictest penalty, the gravity of the crime and the accusation must be weighed against the rights of the individual under Irish law to receive a fair trial and have the benefit of fair procedures and access to evidence to be used against him. Two areas we propose to deal with by way of amendment on Committee Stage relate to the evidence necessary to prosecute the offence and the likely defence that may be offered. These are a mistaken belief of the age of the child and the procedures for giving evidence by or on behalf of the child.
On the issue of enforcement measures against child abusers, the primary responsibility for protecting children rests with the country in which the children live. It is not practical for other countries such as Ireland to propose a policing and investigative role unless it is initiated in the country where the offence is committed. Ireland or the other countries that have implemented this legislation have no wish to usurp the role of the governments in the countries directly concerned. We rely on their co-operation to tackle this heinous crime.
There are, however, practical enforcement steps which Ireland can take. These include ongoing co-operation with Interpol and other intelligence operations directed at paedophilia and child sexual abuse. Such co-operation has achieved notable successes recently in the area of drug trafficking and can also be applied to the transational offence of child sexual abuse. Similarly there should be liaison between Customs and Excise personnel and the Garda when child pornography is intercepted. Often the photographs or videos seized clearly identify their owners engaging in sexual acts with children. These parties can be prosecuted under this Bill.
Pornography can be transmitted down telephone lines to computers and access to child pornography on the Internet is not difficult for those who wish to seek it out. I understand many international agencies and governments are grappling with this issue with a view to presenting workable sanctions against the transmission of such pornography. The reality of child sexual abuse and paedophilia in sex tourist resorts is graphically set out in the following extract from the ECPAT report from Manila in the Philippines published last May.
A police raid on four beer houses in one area found 17 of the 55 women working there were minors with ages ranging from 12 to 17. They all said they were recruited by one known procurer who had been operating brothels in many parts of the metropolis and the provinces for more than 20 years. They were promised jobs as housemaids in Manila but instead were locked up and forced to have sex with customers. Virgins were sold for $40 of which $8 was given to the girl and thereafter she was given $1.40. They work from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. in rooms above the beer house and average six customers per night. They also earn commissions on drinks. They have no rest day and the youngest girl who is 12 years old averaged 12 customers per night.
One 13 year old was stabbed by a customer after she refused to have sex with him for the second time because he did not want to pay again. The girl had to pay for her own medical treatment from her own earnings.
Child abuse is ugly and disturbing. It is a crime against humanity. It is a new form of slavery. We have seen the horror of paedophilia uncovered in recent months. There must be no haven for these people and all children must be protected.
I commend Deputies Eoin Ryan and O'Donoghue for the work they have put into the preparation of this short but very important Bill. I have no doubt that all Members support the objectives of the Bill and I am happy to be in a position to confirm that the Government is prepared, in principle, to give its backing to the Bill. While that is the case, and I am in no way taking from the Bill, there are a number of aspects of the Bill which require amendment before it is permitted to reach the Statute Book; Deputy Ryan has already indicated that there is need for amendments to the Bill. I will refer to some of these matters later.
Deputy O'Donoghue reminded me that he brought in other Bills that were not taken on board, but the record of the many years of Fianna Fáil in office is not brilliant in terms of accepting Opposition Bills. The only two I could find in the Department of Justice are the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1994, and the Judicial Separation Act, 1989. A Bill on foreign adoptions was accepted by a Minister for Health. I am not, however, quibbling about that. I intend to accept this legislation and on Committee Stage we will work together to ensure it is a very effective Bill.
This is a first for Fine Gael.
I am very lucky to be the first Minister to accept an Opposition Bill. The Bill has very appropriately received considerable attention within and outside this House. It has been strongly supported by organisations with a special interest in protecting the welfare of children. I know that I speak for all Members of this House when I say that the greatest credit must go to such organisations for highlighting the abominable exploitation of children for the purpose of child prostitution and for their efforts, which very often are undertaken under the most difficult conditions, to abolish that hideous trade. I pay tribute to organisations such as Trócaire and Jubilee who have raised this issue and to Fr. Shay Cullen of the Columban Fathers. A number of years ago I visited the Philippines and saw the work being done by people such as Fr. Cullen and other Columbans and missionaries in parts of the world where this trade is continuing.
The main purpose of the Bill is to ensure that Irish citizens or persons ordinarily resident here who travel abroad for what has become known as child sex tourism and return will find that there is no safe haven for them in this country. I know that there is a tendency to think that the commercial abuse and exploitation of children is a problem that affects other countries but not our own. However, Deputies will be aware that information has come to light that implicates Irish people in child sex tourism. Deputies will also recall that this is an issue that was addressed by the Taoiseach in the House earlier this year when he indicated that he was seeking advice from the Attorney General on the question of extending our criminal jurisdiction to enable prosecutions to be taken against persons who commit sexual offences against children abroad. Shortly afterwards, Deputies Ryan and O'Donoghue published their Private Member's Bill which covers the topic referred to by the Taoiseach. In effect, they have removed the need for the Government to introduce its Bill in this area and I thank them for that.
I am sure that many Deputies will also be aware that the problem of child sex tourism was raised in the Seanad by Senator Henry in the context of the package Holidays and Travel Trade Bill. What the Senator had in mind was that steps should be taken to render criminal within the State the promotion of sex holidays in other countries involving acts in respect of minors which are criminal offences where they are committed and would be contrary to our law if committed here.
Child sexual abuse is one of the most horrible of crimes. We all know of the particular vulnerability of children and their need for our special protection. The process of safeguarding children from sexual exploitation has been significantly strengthened in this country and many others in recent years. This is a development that will be welcomed by every right minded person. Unfortunately, however, it has become the case that paedophiles are now travelling to certain parts of the world, and Asia in particular, where child protection laws are not as stringent or as strictly enforced as in their own countries. The greater ease of travel between distant parts of the world and organised tourism have contributed to this phenomenon and have actually led to the situation in which an industry has developed to cater specifically for the provision of child sex for foreign tourists.
Child sex tourism is very closely linked to the problem of child prostitution throughout the world. While the causes of this form of prostitution are varied, it is clear that it arises mainly from the acute poverty that exists in certain countries. Such poverty can give rise to the most primitive living conditions, illiteracy, under-education and a lack of employment opportunities. Seeking to take advantage of persons who are struggling to survive under these circumstances, agents acting for brothels and other establishments often coerce or entice parents to surrender a child on the basis of a small sum of money. Sometimes a promise is made to parents that a child will be given a legitimate job. Instead the reality is that the child is sold into prostitution. Financial pressures can also mean that it is very difficult to maintain family units. One of the consequences is that children are made homeless, which greatly increases their vulnerability to pimps and exploitation.
As I have already mentioned, today it is a relatively simple matter to travel to even the most distant countries with the result that journeys that at one time would take weeks or even months to complete can now be undertaken in a single day. This has undoubtedly led directly to the establishment and development of sex tourism which involves the systematic and deliberate exploitation of children who are forced into prostitution. In particular, the United Nations Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery has recognised that child prostitution is connected with mass tourism. Furthermore the Ecumenical Coalition on Third World Tourism investigated tourism and child prostitution in a number of Asian countries and concluded that tourism is now very closely linked with the acceleration, and in some cases is the cause, of child prostitution. In certain countries it has been established that child prostitution was introduced by tourism while in others it would appear that tourism is aggravating an existing problem and is providing an attraction for paedophiles.
I know that many Members will be aware that the enforcement of the law relating to child sexual abuse in countries that attract sex tourists has not been very successful in the past. One of the reasons for this appears to be that the local enforcement authorities are often reluctant to enforce the laws against foreign tourists. Furthermore the relevant authorities may not have the resources that are required to enable them to operate effectively. Another difficulty that has arisen is that even when an offence has been detected and pursued the only sanctions that have been imposed in some cases are deportation and a fine which can allow the offender to travel to another country to continue the abuse of children.
I understand that the issue of child sexual abuse is one that has been highlighted and is being pursued in many of the countries in question and I would sincerely hope that the steps that are being taken in that regard will lead to the situation where all forms of exploitation of children for sexual purposes will be eliminated in those countries. I am sure Deputies will appreciate that the solutions to the problems that arise in those countries lie essentially with those countries themselves and that there is a limit to what can be achieved by other states who wish to put an end to the evil trade of sex tourism.
That being said, however, there is no doubt but that the international community has a role to play in eliminating child sex tourism and the problem has been recognised internationally as one that creates obligations for all states, especially where their nationals are involved. In response to the problem a worldwide campaigning organisation has been set up to tackle the issue of child prostitution on a number of fronts. The organisation, which is called End Child Prostitution in Asia — ECPAT — has offices in many countries and works closely with organisations such as UNICEF and Interpol and also with tourism agencies. In addition to directing efforts towards the receiving countries where the offences take place, ECPAT has been lobbying the governments of the major sending countries from which many of the offenders travel in order to avail of child prostitution.
Deputies may be aware that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child places general obligations on states to take action both at national and international level to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse. This is not an obligation that is confined to child nationals or a particular state. Article 34 of the convention refers to the protection of children from all forms of sexual abuse and requires states to take all appropriate national, bilateral, and multilateral measures to prevent the inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity and the exploitation of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices. Furthermore, in 1993, the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights stressed the need for states to address the problem of exploitation and abuse of children and to provide effective measures against harmful child labour, sale of children, child prostitution and other forms of sexual abuse.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery has adopted a programme for the prevention of the sale of children and child prostitution which calledinter alia, for sending and receiving countries to adopt measures to prevent sex tourism. In response to these initiatives a number of states have recently enacted new laws to combat child sex tourism. Up to recently we had no reason to believe that Irish people were involved in this repulsive trade either as promoters or as sex tourists. Even if only a handful of Irish people are so involved, it is incumbent on us as legislators to take action. The Bill introduced by Deputies Eoin Ryan and O'Donoghue provides a welcome opportunity for us to legislate in this area and to play our part in the fight against child sex tourism.
Before I proceed to discuss the provisions of the Bill there are two specific points I should make. First, I would remind the House that special provisions which are designed to assist and to safeguard the interests of rape victims are provided for under the rape Acts. For example, I am sure Deputies will be familiar with the requirement that, save in exceptional circumstances, the identity of a complainant in a rape case cannot be disclosed. While the current Bill allows prosecutions to be taken in respect of rape offences committed against children abroad, the particular portions of the rape Acts I have referred to would not apply. This is a matter that needs to be addressed and I would hope that the appropriate result could be achieved by way of a relatively straightforward change to the Bill.
Second, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the Bill makes no provision in relation to powers of arrest, despite the fact that, if one of the offences with which it is primarily concerned were committed within the State, a person suspected of having committed it could be arrested without a warrant by a member of the Garda Síochána. This could, of course, be very significant. For example, if a garda was to meet a person against whom there was clear evidence that he or she had been involved in a child sexual abuse case in another country the garda could not, under the terms of the Bill as it stands at present, arrest the person. Instead the garda would have to apply to a judge of the Distict Court for a warrant to carry out the arrest. It is not difficult to envisage the problems that could arise under those conditions and the result could well be that a person who may have carried out sexual abuse against children could escape justice. I am convinced it is essential that a specific power to arrest persons reasonably suspected of having committed offences to which the Bill applies should be conferred on the Garda Síochána.
I would now like to turn to the provisions of the Bill before the House. Deputies will be aware that what it sets out to do is to extend our criminal jurisdiction to certain sexual offences that are committed against children in other jurisdictions. The general principle on which our criminal law operates is that our courts can exercise jurisdiction in respect of every criminal offence that is committed within the State, regardless of the nationality or the domicile of the offender but, subject to a number of exceptions, they cannot deal with offences committed elsewhere. This would mean, for example, that a person who travels to another country for child sex tourist purposes could not be tried for any sexual abuse they may have engaged in while they were outside the jurisdiction. The effect of the Bill would be to make it possible to convict an Irish citizen or a person who has resided here for more than 12 months of a number of offences linked to child sexual abuse where such offences took place abroad.
As I indicated, the Government is prepared to accept the thinking behind the Bill, but we are satisfied that it gives rise to a number of specific issues that need to be teased out further and are likely to require changes to be made to the Bill. In raising these issues, I would like to make it clear that I am not seeking, in any sense, to question the good work that the Deputies have done in framing the Bill but, and I believe this is a view that would be accepted on all sides of the House, that it is essential that all possible steps should be taken to ensure that the legislation, when it is enacted, will be as effective as possible and that it will be consistent with out existing law on sexual offences committed against children. In this respect I have welcomed the recognition by Deputy Eoin Ryan that some amendments to the Bill are required.
The first point I would like to make with regard to the specific provisions of the Bill relates to section 2 (1). This subsection refers to the commission of offences against a child under the age of 18 years in another jurisdiction. Access by authorities to proof of the age of the child is an area which appears to require particular attention and it has not been dealt with in the Bill. In that context it must be borne in mind that the vast majority of the children in question will not be living with their families and they may in fact be street children. In the circumstances it can be expected that the normal means of proving age, which is a birth certificate, will not be available and that alternative methods of proof will have to be resorted to. This is a matter that has been tackled in Australian legislation and it is undoubtedly one that should also be considered for the purposes of the Bill. I might mention, for the information of Deputies, that the relevant Australian provisions allow certain material to be treated as admissible evidence for the purpose of determining the age of a victim, or his or her age at a particular time, including the following: the person's appearance; medical or scientific opinion and a document that is or appears to be an official or medical record from a country outside Australia.
The problem of proving the age of a child who has been sexually abused in another country is much more than an academic point and it is one that has already led to the acquittal of persons who have been tried for sex tourist offences. For example, the absence of a birth certificate to prove whether a young girl was below the age for sexual consent in the Philippines resulted in the quashing of the conviction of a foreign national for her rape in 1990. Furthermore, one of the major hurdles experienced by Swedish authorities gathering evidence in Thailand to bring to trial a Swedish citizen was the obtaining of the key witness's birth certificate to prove that he was under age at the time the offence was committed.
I would also like to refer Deputies specifically to section 3 which creates a range of offences under the Bill. Obviously the main offences are those which are covered by subsection (1) and which relate to acts of sexual abuse committed against children abroad. In addition, the section goes on to provide in subsections (2) and (4) for separate offences arising out of aiding and abetting etc., or conspiracy in relation to subsection (1) offence.
I am sure that from the point of view of taking effective action against child sex tourism, Members would be anxious that the promoters of that evil trade should be liable to prosecution and to very severe punishment. As Deputies will recall, this is the specific point that Senator Henry sought to deal with when she tabled amendments to the Package Holidays and Travel Trade Bill mentioned. I would be concerned, however, that the Deputies' Bill does not go far enough in that regard.
While it is clear that the provisions of subsections (2) and (4) of section 3 would catch a person who organises a child sex tourist visit abroad for the purpose of sexual abuse against a particular child, I understand that it may be open to question whether these provisions could be successfully applied in a situation where arrangements are made for a person to travel to another country but the identity of the child or children who may be abused is not known to the person who actually makes the arrangements for the abuser. As Deputies will appreciate, this is likely to be the position in the vast majority of cases. Accordingly, I believe there is urgent need to consider subsections (2) and (4) of section 3 further and, if necessary, to extend their scope to ensure that anyone involved in providing child sex tourism services for others will be subject to the full rigours of our criminal law in all cases.
The next issue I would like to address is the question of double jeopardy covered in section 4 (1). That subsection merely provides that nothing in the Bill shall affect the legal principle of double jeopardy. I have some concerns about that provision I would like to share with this House.
Firstly, and I accept that it might be considered a relatively minor point, it would not be appropriate to refer to the legal principle of double jeopardy in a Bill or a statute. On the basis of decisions from the High Court and the Supreme Court, it appears to be established that the rule against double jeopardy has a constitutional basis and, accordingly, it should not be classified as a mere legal principle by the Oireachtas.
More importantly, however, I can foresee serious practical difficulties arising with section 4 (1) as currently worded. As Deputies will be aware, the principle against double jeopardy is designed to ensure that a person who has been tried for a particular offence cannot be tried again for the offence in question. The main purpose of the principle is to protect individuals from spurious prosecutions. As I said, section 4 (1) refers simply to the principle of double jeopardy and it does not specify whether the principle is to apply in respect of criminal proceedings taken in this country or in another jurisdiction. One interpretation of the provision would be that it would be open to our courts to try a person in respect of offences already prosecuted abroad but not where the person had previously been convicted or acquitted in this country. Such an interpretation would undoubtedly give rise to constitutional difficulties and to eliminate any such difficulties it will be necessary to amend the relevant portion of the Bill. I might, in passing, mention that the equivalent Australian legislation has set out the double jeopardy principle in full. From the point of view of clarity and legal certainty of which I am aware the proposers of this legislation want to be assured that a similar approach should be adopted in this Bill.
I note that section 4 (2) provides that Part III of the Criminal Evidence Act, 1992, shall apply to offences created by the Bill. While I may have some doubts about the precise wording the Deputies have used in the subsection I welcome this provision.
Deputies may recall that part III of the 1992 Act has made it easier for witnesses to give evidence in cases involving physical or sexual abuse. In particular, it allows evidence to be given by live television link. Questions put to witnesses under 17 may be conveyed through a competent person appointed by the court. Furthermore, where the evidence of such witnesses for a preliminary examination of the offence has been video-recorded they may not have to give evidence at the trial and we realise how important that would be in some cases. In addition a video-recording of statements made to the Garda Síochána or other competent persons by victims under 14 of physical abuse may be admitted in evidence. The operation of the relevant provisions is subject to the control of the court and any evidence must be excluded if in the interests of justice it ought not to be admitted.
Before I proceed further, it would be appropriate to deal with certain points that arise in the context of the Schedule to the Bill. Briefly, the Schedule contains a list of offences in respect of which jurisdiction would be conferred on our courts where the offence in question is committed abroad by an Irish citizen or a person ordinarily resident here against a person under the age of 18. The list is a comprehensive one which embraces a very wide range of offences and, understandably, I have no difficulty with it from that point of view. I should mention, however, that the Schedule appears to have been prepared without reference to recent legislation enacted in the field of sexual offences and contains two specific offences which have, in fact, been repealed.
As Deputies may recall, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993, introduced by a Government of which Deputy O'Donoghue's party was a member, repealed section 4 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935 and the offence of buggery, save in so far as it does not involve animals, under section 61 of the Offences against the Person Act, 1861. Offences under section 4 of the 1935 Act and section 61 of the 1861 Act are included in the list of offences set out in the Schedule to the Bill and there is no doubt that, in the light of the 1993 Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, they should be deleted. I am sure Deputies will agree.
In addition, I suggest that the Schedule should be amended to include the offence provided for in sections 3, 4 and 5 of the 1993 Act. I do not think there is any need for me to spell out the relevant sections in any detail but I should mention that section 3 is concerned with buggery of persons under 17 years of age; section 4 deals with acts of gross indecency with males under 17 and section 5 has created a number of specific offences in connection with the protection of mentally impaired persons from sexual abuse.
Deputies will appreciate from what I have said that additional work will be required on this Bill before it is enacted. Deputy Ryan made it clear that he believes more work is required. In that connection I propose to bring forward a number of amendments to deal with the points I raised with a view to strengthening the text and to make sure that it will prove to be as effective as possible.
I pay tribute to my staff in the Department of Justice who have worked continuously since this Bill was put forward as a Private Members motion at the end of last week. It required a great deal of speedy work to examine the legislation to enable me bring to the attention of the House today some of the issues in the Bill we need to strengthen to ensure that the work done by Deputies Ryan and O'Donoghue is as effective as possible when this Bill is passed into law.
As I indicated, the Government is happy to support the Bill subject to the amendments outlined above and others that Deputies may wish to table when they have had an opportunity to consider the available literature. I believe that when it is in operation it will place Ireland in the forefront of the fight against the scourge of child sex tourism and I look forward to its enactment as soon as possible.
I thank the two Deputies who have put the work into this Bill. I am aware that they, like me, have had an opportunity to speak to people such as Fr. Shay Cullen about the issue. When one reads, and it is not reading one enjoys, in the report on child prostitution in the Philippines prepared by Fr. Shay Cullen of a security guard at the Subic free port brought to court for the sexual abuse of a three year old he picked up on the streets, one must commend the Deputies for their diligence and work in this regard. I hope when we complete Committee Stage that we will have put effective legislation on our Statute Book.
I wish to share my time with Deputy McDaid.
I am sure that is agreed.
I commend my colleagues on these benches for their initiative in introducing this Bill. I know the commendable hard work Deputies O'Donoghue and Ryan put into it. Inside and outside the House it has unanimous support.
This is a difficult topic. As the Minister and my colleagues indicated, many people here do not believe such things happen. An estimated one million children are forced into child prostitution world-wide and globally as many as ten million could be ensalved into child prostitution, the sex industry, pornography and sex tourism. That is an awful indictment of the First World against the Second and Third Worlds. Poverty is often the reason young girls and boys are sold by their families who are desperate for money. If there were no need for such services, that element in out society would not exist. In a world where some countries do not comply fully with the UN Convention on the rights of children and where there is corruption, particularly within their law enforcement and police force, we need to impose legislation here to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.
It is difficult to accept there is a sex tourism industry but we know it exists. Increased tourism should have benefited countries such as Brazil and Thailand but it has contributed to the growth in numbers of child prostitutes and children who are sexually abused. People in this country are sick when they read of the ages at which children are abused and in prostitution. In Thailand a ten-year-old girl was sold by her mother for $200. That shows the extent of poverty and depravity.
Fr. Shay Cullen has put his life at risk in going against authorities. Everyone in the House commends what he tries to do. He has documented the fact that a four-year-old girl was sold for sex to US sailors. There was uproar in the Philippines some months ago regarding the rape of a young Filipino. I am pleased the US authorities saw fit to allow a prosecution to take place. It is a sad indictment of a strong nation that such things happen. Were it not for the people themselves being empowered, this issue could have gone unnoticed. With a view to ensuring that does not happen I am pleased this legislation is before the House for discussion.
The amendments to which Deputy Eoin Ryan has spoken can be discussed at a late date and I will leave the legal people on both sides to address them. Only minor amendments need to be introduced. The tougher the measures the better. It will be difficult to ascertain what type of operator is involved specifically in this trade. Some tour operators will say they cannot be held responsible for what happens outside their jurisdiction. A strong warning should go out that these things are not acceptable in this country and that the perpetrators will be brought to justice. We will all reiterate that there is no safe haven for these people here and we stand firm on that commitment.
We have had to deal with many issues we did not really want to discuss over the years. I am pleased that issues such as child abuse have come into the open. One of the recommendations arising from the investigation into the Kilkenny incest case was that there should be inter-country co-operation. My colleagues have taken that recommendation on board. Co-operation between nations should be firmed up to bring the perpetrators to justice by allowing the courts to deal with them. Many countries will not deal with these offences. They turn a blind eye to them and will not prosecute people who bring hard currency into their countries for the wrong reasons.
We have all heard in recent years about the increase in infectious diseases, HIV and hepatitis. Even from a selfish point of view it is difficult to understand why people leave themselves open to catching and spreading such diseases not only among young people in nations such as the Philippines, Brazil and the street children in Latin America but in the First World.
There are grave concerns in the former Eastern European countries that such trade is now commencing. I sincerely hope the introduction of legislation in all countries will bring child prostitution and the sex tourism to an end.
We are all good at attending conferences and signing UN conventions. In view of the fact that over 120 states ratified the UN convention on the rights of the child it is hard to believe that child prostitution is on the increase. Article 34 of that UN convention states specifically that parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. For these purposes, state parties shall, in particular, take appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent the coercion of children in unlawful sexual activity, the use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices and the use of children in pornographic performances and material. It is hard to believe that many nations have not even introduced legislation which would allow for multilateral and bilateral measures to address this problem. Certainly, national measures to combat child prostitution are lacking and further international co-operation is needed in dealing with this issue. In the Third World there are many problems in regard to child poverty, children living on the streets, lack of education, lack of information and exploitation. Many countries like to support Third World charities and try to take children off the street, to address poverty and to introduce education. Many of us felt that travel would bring hard currency into countries and that those countries would benefit but it is sad that many people travel to such countries for other reasons and exploit one of the world's greatest assets, our children.
I wholeheartedly congratulate my two colleagues for taking this initiative. I am pleased the Government has seen fit to accept it. I hope there will be a further teasing out of one or two amendments. It is a matter of tidying up some matters with some minor amendments. I am delighted we can hold our heads up high and ensure there are no safe havens for such people in this country. This message has been spelt out loud and clear in the debate.
I thank Deputy Coughlan for sharing her time. I wholeheartedly join in welcoming the Bill and in complimenting the Minister for her wise and generous decision to back this legislation which was drafted by Deputies John O'Donoghue and Eoin Ryan on the Fianna Fáil Opposition benches.
In common with other speakers. I must admit when I first came into the House in 1989 and my party was in Government, there were occasions when I was anything but happy to vote against Opposition proposals with which I agreed in principle. I was happy when my party surprised most people by accepting legislative proposals from the Opposition which are now enshrined on the Statute Book as vital components of our laws. I look forward to further developments of this nature and I urge my party to continue the process when it returns to Government. It cannot be said at any time that all wisdom is confined to one side of the House.
It is a sad reflection on mankind that this Bill is necessary, but, unfortunately, this is very much the case. Earlier speakers eloquently described the horrific trade which has developed in the evil practice of exploiting innocent children. At a time when the clergy of Ireland has been the target of widespread criticism because of the sins of a few in the area of child sexual abuse, it is heartening to note, as the Minister and Deputy Ryan pointed out, the heroic role of our missionaries abroad in fearlessly highlighting any type of abuse of the rights and dignities of human beings.
Regarding the area covered by the Bill, it was an Irish Columban Father who exposed, in a global fashion, the extent of the menace. Through his research, Deputy Ryan has given the House some horrendous figures, which will be read in newspapers all over the country tomorrow, which demonstrate how extreme this abuse is and how it has been tolerated in other countries throughout the world. One product of widespread child prostitution is the obvious danger of the spread of AIDS, not only among the children themselves but through them to all who exploit them and so on in a deadly chain reaction.
It is ironic that child sexual abuse has been the focus of much debate in Ireland in recent months. The Bill deals with our problem which is magnified by millions in countries in Asia, South America and eastern Europe where there is child prostitution. I am convinced there is child prostitution in
Ireland, although not on the same scale. If people from this country are ever to become part of a rescue operation abroad, it would be a great help if we started by greatly extending the facilities and therapy available to the victims of child abuse here.
I was appalled to hear a woman on the radio today who was a victim of sexual abuse as a child. She underwent group therapy which cost £30 a session and she made the point that not enough facilities are available in this country to back up the victims of child sexual abuse. She could not afford the treatment. She mentioned another startling fact. Paedophiles, she said, may be sentenced to a certain number of years but her sentence is lifelong. We do not fully take the victims of child abuse into consideration when we talk so eloquently about it.
As people, we have been asked to forgive the perpetrators of many heinous crimes in this country. As a rule, we are very forgiving people. I regard myself as a forgiving person but what if it happened to my seven year old boy? What if it happened to one's little boy or girl? I cannot say how responsible I would be for my actions if it happened to my family. We do not fully understand the horrendous effect of child sexual abuse on victims.
Deputy Coughlan mentioned that we have been inundated with writings on child sexual abuse in recent months. We have been shocked by the type and amount of cases but we must hope some good will follow the exposure of this evil. This is the first positive legislation in this regard in this island and hopefully it will be a message to the world that we will not tolerate these fiends any longer.
Deputy Ryan said that the Bill targets tour organisers and traders in child pornography in section 3 (2). I hope our tour organisers are not directly involved in this type of operation. Previously, there were sun holiday, golf and other types of tourists in addition to sex tourists. It is now clear that tourists go to certain parts of the world to sexually abuse children. These people do not deserve any hiding place and it must be made known that sex with underage boys and girls, regardless of where it takes place, how far it is from home and how blurred the circumstances — and paedophilia — is illegal. It will be exposed and the perpetrators imprisoned in Ireland.
It has been stated recently that the Minister is dealing with this area comprehensively in the Child Sexual Offences Bill. Certain parts of the legislation have not matched expectations and we hope the advent of this Bill, which the Minister has generously accepted, will ensure that Ireland leads the way in this area. We will be able to say to the rest of the world that we showed the way.
It appears, Deputy Walsh, that it is time to deal with another matter. Perhaps the Deputy could move the adjournment of the debate.
I appreciate that the Ceann Comhairle asked me to do so.