I congratulate Deputy Neville on bringing forward this Private Members' Bill. While I agree with much of its content, I question its timing and I will be opposing the Bill. This matter is the subject of deliberation by a commission and it is appropriate to await its outcome. We should not blindly follow British Government policy or practice as a matter of routine. In this instance we should copy the actions of that parliament in introducing a similar Bill, but we should first await the outcome of the commission.
Before introducing similar legislation in Britain, the Government there awaited the recommendations of the Home Office consultative paper which sought comments from the public on the issue of sex offenders. That was a sensible and wise practice. The Government did not attempt to pre-empt the outcome of the Home Office paper, and I ask Deputy Neville to adopt a similar policy. It is vitally important that we debate the scope of the proposed Bill, which is intended to register all those convicted of crimes against children and other sex offences. We must carefully examine all the options available within the terms of the Bill before the Government brings forward its Bill.
Much play is made of the prospect of repeat offences. Research carried out abroad does not support the figures quoted. According to the results of the research, certain sex offenders do not reoffend. The repeat pattern of the average non-sex offender is much higher. This issue and many more need to be debated in great depth. There should at least be an indication of the time limits for registration of offenders. This is dealt with clearly in the United Kingdom 1997 Act. Registration requirements should be set down in our Bill. It should not be left to the discretion of the courts. We are all aware of the variation of courts in the criteria used for determining sentences. We do not want any section of the Bill to be open to challenge.
The method of reporting to the authorities is not defined clearly enough. There is ambiguity as to whether an offender should physically report his or her presence to a local Garda station or whether it should be notified in writing only. This needs to be clarified. The penalties for non-notification need to be investigated. They appear to be penal in Deputy Neville's Bill. The inclusion of prison governors among those who are subject to those penalties is off the wall. The requirements for a Garda inspector to get High Court permission for the disclosure of information from the register would be unworkable, totally counter-productive and time consuming and would clog up the system.
Those with sex offence records in all countries with registration systems should come within the terms of this Bill. There are many aspects of the Sexual Offenders Registration Bill which would benefit from deeper analysis and subsequent amendment when the Minister brings forward his Bill. I hope the Minister considers this Bill and includes some of the fine proposals put forward by Deputy Neville. I see no benefit in rushing a Bill through this House which may prove unworkable or unconstitutional.
The object of the Bill should be to register all sex offenders. There is a basic need for this, and the introduction of a register would be a major step in preventing repeat sexual offences. Public knowledge of criminal sexual offence records and those who perpetrate such crime would be a major deterrent in committing sexual offences. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Some of the more tragic sex-related offences in the recent past could have been averted if there had been public knowledge of the character of the offender who committed a series of heinous crimes against young people in another European country. The man involved was a known sex offender who committed many crimes with seeming impunity. If the public had access to a register which showed his name as a recurring sex offender he would not have continued on his evil ways.
I abhor the existence of so-called tolerance which prevails in some countries. There is an acceptance of low standards and I hope we will not allow those standards to prevail here. It speaks volumes of the changes in society that such standards creep in unobserved. We must safeguard the lifestyle and values we have traditionally enjoyed. We must address issues such as this Bill in a serious and rational fashion. The Government will not shirk its responsibilities in presenting its Bill.
There are people whose sole interest in life is making films based on sexual intercourse in normal and perverse fashion. Many of them say that their films are artistic, but many who have seen them would describe them as dirty. The makers of this pornography must share the guilt of those who perform criminal sexual acts following the inspiration they receive from viewing those filthy films. In a related sphere, there is widespread misuse of computer technology to broadcast pornographic material. The computer provides easy access to those who wish to infiltrate the privacy of our homes. They cause offence to the nation at large by the uncensored display of explicit sexual material. This type of viewing must be doing untold damage to the minds of young people. These computer artists fall into the same category as the makers of porno movies and they carry a heavy burden of responsibility for the minds they influence and distort. They should be included in the ambit of the Bill to be introduced by the Minister.
In that context, it is critically important to address the problem of abusers. The resources needed for such a service must be made available. The actions and motivations of offenders must be professionally studied and analysed. We cannot successfully address the problem of sex offences unless we gain an in-depth knowledge of the minds of those who commit such offences. We must learn what drives them to commit these horrible acts and we must ascertain if it is possible to reverse their patterns of behaviour. The results of a serious study would be of enormous value in safeguarding the potential victims of sex attacks.
I received documentation from a group in the west which is involved in general professional counselling for individuals requiring help with psychological problems and those who have been sexually abused. The management board consists of people with educational, psychological, medical, legal and pastoral qualifications and its submission "Pro-Consult", which is modelled on a system used in Canada to treat sexual offenders, has been sent to the Minister.
The Minister will enjoy the full support of the House when he introduces his Bill. We will then have an opportunity to include the commission's input and discuss the relevant points which the Minister will bring forward and those already raised by Deputy Neville. I appeal to the Deputy to withdraw his Bill and wait for the results of the commission's report and the introduction of the new legislation, which, I am sure, will receive Members' full support.