The Sex Offenders Bill, 2000, provides for a package of measures aimed at protecting the public, in particular children, from sexual abuse or attack. The main provision of the Bill will be the creation of a sex offenders register, or tracking system as it is also known. The Bill has passed Second Stage in the Dáil and I hope that the remaining stages will be passed to allow for the register to come into operation before the end of the year.
The registration or notification obligation will cover all those who, on or after commencement of the Act, are convicted or found guilty but insane of a sexual offence specified in the Schedule to the Bill and those who are, on commencement, still in contact with the criminal justice system, whether awaiting sentence, in prison, subject to supervision, serving a community service order or detained in the Central Mental Hospital. Further retrospection would be impossible without compromising the accuracy of the records; it would simply not be possible to trace all those offenders no longer in contact with the criminal justice system. However, the issue of retrospectivity is dealt with in the Bill in the following way. If such an offender were to act in such a way as to pose a risk of serious harm to the public, the gardaí could apply to the court under Part III of the Bill for a sex offender order and the making of such an order, apart from the other consequences of the order, would automatically make the person liable to the notification requirement.
The Bill's enactment will ensure that An Garda Síochána will have up-to-date information on the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders. This in itself should act as a deterrent to reoffending and so contribute towards their rehabilitation. In addition, the availability of up to date data will be of particular benefit to the gardaí in the investigation and prevention of sexual crimes.