Written Answers. - Sexual Offences.

John Gormley

Question:

536 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the trauma that victims of sex abuse and their families suffer when the abuser continues to live in their area before the matter gets to the courts; his views on whether families should be advised about the movements of such an individual and should be told the progress being made in the case by members of the Garda; the plans he has to introduce legislation for precisely these purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7760/01]

The Sex Offenders Bill, 2000, at present before this House arose primarily from an analysis of the views received on the chapter of the Discussion Paper on the Law on Sexual Offences which dealt with a sex offenders register and post-release supervision. When the Bill is enacted the remaining chapters of the discussion paper will be examined in the light of an analysis of the views received on them. Among the wide range of issues addressed in the discussion paper was the position of the complainant in the criminal trial process. Chapter 5 of the paper sets out the measures already introduced over recent years to improve that position. The question of whether there is a need for any further legislative or other measures will form part of the forthcoming examination.

The Victims Charter, which I published in 1999, specifically provides for the Garda to keep all victims, including victims of sex abuse, informed about the progress of an investigation, including whether a suspect is charged or cautioned. Where a suspect is charged, the charter provides for a range of information to be given by the Garda to the victim, including details of court hearings. For victims of sex abuse, information about specialist services is also supplied and such victims are advised about the circumstances under which a judge may ask for victim impact statements.

In the case of sexual crimes the complainant-victim is kept informed of the progress of the investigation by the Garda. This does not, however, include informing the complainant of the movements of the alleged abuser. I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, all persons are innocent until proven guilty and infringements of their constitutional rights would not always be in the interest of justice.

The Sex Offenders Bill, when introduced, will place certain requirements on convicted sexual offenders and will provide authority to the Garda in cases where sexual offenders fail to take certain steps, e.g. notification of changes of address, notification of leaving the State.

Section 10 of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Persons Act, 1997 provides for protection to victims. In relation to complaints arising out of harassment by alleged abusers on their victim, any such cases should be brought to the attention of the Garda Síochána and would be treated very seriously by the Garda.