I move: "That section 3 be deleted".
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 4 before section 4, to insert the following new section:
"4.—A person who publishes information which is intended to or, having regard to all the circumstances, is likely to promote, advocate or incite the commission of an offence, which is an offence by virtue of section 2(1) of this Act, shall be guilty of an offence.".
This amendment makes it an offence to publish information which is intended or likely to promote, advocate or incite the commission of a sexual offence against a child abroad. Again, the intention is to incorporate the essence of a provision of the Child Sex Tours Bill put forward in the Seanad by Senator Henry.
Again, I respectfully contend that section 3 of our legislation already provides for this and makes it a criminal offence. Although I would never accuse the Minister of State of this, I have in the past accused the Minister for Justice of never using one word where 1,000 words will do.
The Deputy is an exponent of that himself.
I would not go along with that. It is a Kerry trait, incidentally, to contain the amount of words used where possible. Where we can use imagery we will do that rather than expound for the day. That much having been said, as the Latins would put it, I have no objection to the Minister amending the legislation in this fashion. However, I sometimes wonder whether the Minister for Justice does this to titillate, annoy or frustrate us — I am not sure which is the correct explanation. We will accept the amendment because it is in line with the spirit, thrust and principle of our legislation.
This is included already in our Bill which the Minister accepted in principle and I will not start a row or disagreement over it. As Deputy O'Donoghue explained so well, there has been cross party support, with input from Senator Henry, for the principle of the Bill.
Shakespeare, in one of his more imaginative moments, said that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
The Deputy is not claiming Shakespeare was from Kerry?
He had enough to boast about.
I will not refer to the comments about Kerry, which is one of my favourite counties. Deputy Ryan said he did not want to get into a row but he would have found difficulty starting one because I am by nature a reasonable person and I have taken seriously the stiff task we had in improving this Bill and bringing it forward in this shape. This amendment creates a new offence which leaves no doubt about the publication of information. It is far preferable to be specific rather than to rely on a broad interpretation of another provision and that is what we are doing. The matter covered by this amendment — information which is intended to or, having regard to all the circumstances, is likely to promote, advocate or incite the commission of a sexual offence against a child abroad — is too important to be any doubt about it, which is why we want to make it as specific as we have in this new section.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 4, before section 4, to insert the following new section:
"5.—Where an offence under this Act is committed by a body corporate and is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of any person, being a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of such body, or a person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, that person as well as the body corporate shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished as if he or she were guilty of the first-mentioned offence.".
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that officers of companies may be held personally responsible for offences under the Bill committed by their firms. It provides that where an offence under the new sections 3 and 4 is committed by a body corporate with the consent, connivance or neglect of an officer of that body, the officer concerned may be prosecuted. The amendment follows closely the text of section 4(2) in Senator Henry's Bill.
We have no difficulty with this amendment. It is welcome in that it recognises the possibility of a body corporate and those connected with it becoming involved in this activity.
I more amendment No. 6:
In page 4, before section 4, to insert the following new section:
"6.—A person guilty of an offence under this Act (other than an offence under section 2 or 5) shall be liable—
(a) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding £1,500 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both, or
(b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding £10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to both.".
This new section sets out the penalty maxima for offences created by the new sections 3 and 4. For a summary conviction the proposed penalty maximum is a £1,500 fine or 12 months' imprisonment or both; in the case of a conviction on indictment, a fine of up to £10,000 or five years imprisonment or both.
Our legislation provided at section 3(1) that where a person does in any other jurisdiction an act which, if done in this State, would constitute an offence specified in the Schedule to that Bill, he would be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction on indictment to the penalty to which he would have been liable if he had done that act in the State. Similarly, when dealing with aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring, our Bill provided that the sanction should be that which would be applied if the offence were committed in this State and, as far as we could gauge it, that appeared to make eminent good sense.
The Minister of State has so far not proffered a reason for proposing that the penalty should be specifically set out in the legislation and could be different to what would be imposed by a court if the offence were committed in the State. I would be interested to hear his views on this. I realise this amendment may be consequential on the fact that the amendments proposed by the Minister of State necessitated this amendment being put forward. However, I would like to know the reason for future reference.
It is clear and simple. The offences here refer to the new offences created by the new sections 3 and 4, not to the offences under section 2.
We are dealing with the penalty which may be imposed on any person who is found guilty of an offence and one offence under the new section 4, which we have just agreed, can be against persons who are deemed to be guilty of publishing information which is intended to or, having regard to all the circumstances, is likely to promote, advocate or incite the commission of child sex tourism and abuse. Has the Minister given consideration to how his Department would implement this legislation with regard to the use being made of the Internet to spread information about child sex tourism? What measures can be taken to deal with that source of information? I presume it would come under the new section 4 but there are complexities involved, as the Internet is a world-wide system. How would the authorities here proceed with a case under this Bill where it was deemed had been committed with the use of the Internet?
The point raised by Deputy Molloy about the Internet is important because it is being used to publish child pornography. This is an extremely serious matter. There has been a flood of pornographic material into the country in recent years and although it is not appropriate to this legislation, I am strongly of the view that possession of child pornography should be a criminal offence. In this context the use of child pornography on the Internet should constitute possession and should be criminalised. It is important that this happens soon.
I am not sure the extent to which Deputy Molloy's question can be answered by the Minister. With regard to section 4, it appears the person who publishes the information is outside the jurisdiction. For example, it could be published in the United States, Asia or elsewhere and it would be difficult to bring the person within the remit of the Bill. However, I hope the Minister can assure the committee regarding international initiatives which may be taking place with particular reference to Ireland's Presidency of the EU and the need for a coherent and comprehensive approach in dealing with pornographic material distributed on the Internet. Jurisdictions cannot deal with it in isolation and it requires a European approach. I hope this aspect can be addressed in the context of the EU Presidency.
Section 3 covers the transport of people while section 4 covers publishing but these offences will be committed by people who are relatively well off financially. Will a fine of £1,500 have a great effect on such people? On the face of it, a fine of £1,500 appears hefty but, given the offences and expense involved in sections 3 and 4, is it a sufficient deterrent?
The Bill states "a fine of £1,500 or 12 months' imprisonment or both".
It states "or". I would readily accept it if it stated "and" 12 months' imprisonment.
The effective deterrent will be the provision for 12 months' imprisonment.
I hope that will be the case.
If a person is convicted on indictment, a fine of up to £10,000 or five years' imprisonment or both may be imposed. It is not restricted to £1,500 and I think this amount will be the smallest fine.
The wider issue raised by Deputy Molloy about the Internet is not a matter for the Bill but I will make a number of observations about it. The Chairman said earlier that the committee's deliberations were delayed because some members wished to attend a conference in Stockholm — Deputy Ryan and Senator Henry were there. Those who attended were made aware of the complexity of the issue in relation to the Internet and the amazing harm it can cause in the context of child pornography. It is an extremely complex matter and it is difficult to understand how it can be handled on a national level.
We are trying to do something about it in terms of self-regulation as suggested by Irish service providers. However, the problem cannot be solved on a national level and I doubt if it can be solved on a European level. Through the Presidency of the EU, actions which could be taken with regard to the Internet and its abuses are being considered but the problem must be dealt with internationally. Anything done on a European level will bear the international necessities in mind. The option of legislation in this area is under review in the Department of Justice.
Deputy O'Donoghue referred to criminalising the possession of child pornography. As I said previously, the Government is examining this matter in detail. This examination is well advanced in terms of proposed legislation. It appears that the possession of child pornography in itself establishes that an offence has already been committed — it would not be child pornography unless an offence had already been committed — so one can start from that basis. It also appears the possession of child pornography indicates that a person has a certain mindset and interest in such material. It is worthwhile to follow up this point. The dreadful abuse of children in this country and internationally is a good reason to follow up every possible opportunity to minimise it and wipe it out. The Minister for Justice, the Government and I will do whatever we can in that context.
The problem of controlling material on the Internet and the huge opportunities it gives to people engaged in pornography and child sex tours was discussed at a number of workshops during the conference. Before the conference Senator Henry visited Finland where the authorities successfully took action against a person who received information through the Internet. I am sure Senator Henry will elaborate on this case at a later date but it was a first and the Finnish police were positive about their breakthrough. I agree with the Minister that it is a complex matter not just in terms of pornographic material, but in a variety of information which may not be in the common good if people had access to it. The Internet poses a problem and it should be addressed.
I thank the Minister of State for his positive response. However, as I advocated in the House on behalf of Fianna Fáil for two years, it is of the utmost importance to establish a register of paedophiles in Ireland for this reason. There is, as the Minister of State knows, a very high level of recidivism in child sexual abuse. If the Irish EU Presidency were to spearhead a campaign to ensure that there would be an international paedophile register it would be a considerable achievement but until such time as we do it in our own country and lead by example it would be difficult for us to go on the international stage and call for an international register. That said, I am convinced that the time has come for us to have the register in this country as a start.
We are deviating from the amendment, which concerns the penalties.
Is the Minister aware that in the UK companies which provide access to the Internet have launched an initiative to clean it up themselves. A hotline has been set up for people to report incidences of pornography. When the offensive material has been identified, those who provide the material are asked to remove it. It is also proposed that material be rated as films are, before going on the Internet. This rating could be used to prevent children from gaining access to it if their parents purchase the necessary software to filter it out. There is a role for Irish service providers and it is possible for them, from this country, to be involved in pulling pornography and advertisements for child sex tourism from the system if they wished.
The Minister referred to the possibilities of self-regulation. I hope he will follow this up with the service providers in this country through negotiations and statutory action on his behalf, if necessary. There is no doubt that regulation of the Internet is complex and difficult on a technical level and in maintaining a balance between free speech and censorship. While the task is complex it cannot be ignored any longer. I urge the Minister to pursue the issue vigorously and to come forward with proposals to improve the situation.
In the legislation being considered in his Department, is the Law Reform Commission being consulted for advice on how best to have legislation deal adequately with this matter? Is the Minister aware that the Commissioner for Justice in the EU, Anita Gradin, has drawn attention to the fact that a number of countries have not yet ratified a convention which has allowed the European police agency, Europol, to fight the child sex trade? The convention would allow the agency to pool and analyse lists of missing children. What is Ireland's position on ratifying that convention?
I agree we seem to be going beyond the terms of the Bill but this happens more when there is agreement. The matter of a paedophile register has come up on a number of occasions during which I have given my view and that of my Department. The Garda authorities report that the Garda criminal records office already maintains indexed records of all persons convicted of criminal offences, including sexual offences. These are confidential Garda records and the information enclosed in them is disclosed only in certain limited circumstances. The circumstances in question include the provision by the Garda Síochána of information to employers, including those in children's residential centres, on the criminal convictions of any recorded in respect of applicants for posts which involve substantial access to children. The release of such information, with regard to the Data Protection Act, 1988, is subject to the prior written consent of each applicant.
We have heard forceful arguments again today from various sources for the establishment of a permanent register for convicted paedophiles. These are complex issues including constitutional matters under active review in the Department of Justice at present. Matters as the right of access to such a register, if formed, would have to be examined in this context.
There is really no difficulty about compiling a register of paedophiles. The most important matter is, when one has such a register, the information in it and to whom will it be disclosed. This is a very sensitive matter and came out quite strongly in the discussions on the paedophile register at the conference in Stockholm. It is not just our experience and belief in the Department of Justice but that of all of the other countries who contributed to discussions on the paedophile register. The fundamental question was to whom the information should be disclosed. In the North some months ago there was a case where a convicted paedophile was released. That information was made available in the locality where he had been allocated a house by the Housing Executive. That developed into quite a row on why the convicted paedophile, who had served his sentence, should be given a public authority house in that area and who should be informed of it. For example, should the local school principal, teachers and parents of children at the school be informed?
I attended one of the sessions at the conference in Stockholm where it was disclosed that under Canadian legislation it was possible to bar a convicted paedophile from going to a local beach. There was some discussion on that. There are obviously issues of a civil rights nature. It is a matter of some sensitivity to which we are giving serious consideration in the Department of Justice in line with the importance of the issue.
I am aware, in response to Deputy Molloy, of the problems expressed by Commissioner Gradin. I had conversations with her in relation to the particular problems she had and they do not relate to Ireland. She is quite satisfied with what we are doing and the plans I outlined for dealing with the problem in this country.
On the Internet, the impression may have been given that legislation was being prepared. I do not know who said that. The need for legislation is under review and I have made that clear. It is being considered in the Department of Justice in line with the sensitivity and difficulty of the issue.
In dealing with the penalties, I do not think there is anything to add.
It is important. I agree with the Minister. There are civil rights issues with having a list of paedophiles. The case he told us of has proven to be difficult. In a case in my constituency, a person from England with a history of offences against children got involved in work with children. The case was before the courts and it was raised with the Minister, Deputy Owen, in the House, The Minister of State probably knows about it. The man got very close to one boy. He got himself into the home of this boy and he has done serious damage to that child, but I will not go into that. In talking to the child's mother, I found she could not understand how, considering his history, that person could possibly have ended up working with children in this jurisdiction. She admitted that she was probably very naive.
It is important that some sort of register be kept. I know it is not an easy thing to do. The Minister asked who would have access to that information but we must try to stop people who go to enormous lengths to get as close to children as they possibly can. People who work with paedophiles say that they go to enormous lengths to get close to children and we must go to enormous lengths to make sure they do not.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 4, before section 4, to insert the following new section:
"7.—Proceedings for an offence which is an offence by virtue of subsection (1) of section 2 of this Act, or which is an offence under subsection (2) or (6) of section 2 of this Act, may be taken in any place in the State and the offence may for all incidental purposes be treated as having been committed in that place.".
This amendment would insert a new and important section in the Bill. Its purpose is to give jurisdiction to Irish courts in respect of offences committed abroad to which this Bill will apply. The section provides that proceedings for the offences concerned may be taken in any place in the State and the offence may be treated as having been committed in that place.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 4, before section 4, to insert the following new section:
"8.—In proceedings for an offence, which is an offence under or by virtue of section 2 or 3 of this Act, the court may have regard to a person's physical appearance or attributes for the purpose of determining whether that person is under the age of 17 years or was, at the time of the alleged commission of the offence to which the proceedings relate, under the age of 17 years.".
This is an important amendment because it will enable the courts to have regard to a person's physical appearance or attributes for the purposes of determining whether that person was under the age of 17 at the time of the alleged commission of an offence under the new section 2 or 3. As the Minister for Justice pointed out on Second Stage, the Bill does not deal with the issue of proof of the age of a child despite the fact that most of the children in question will be street children not living with their parents and the normal means of proving age by production of a birth certificate will, in all probability, not be possible.
We know that in other jurisdictions attempts to prosecute child sex tourists have been frustrated by the absence of birth certificates. One case in the Philippines resulted in the questioning of a foreign national's conviction for rape of a child. We should do all we can to ensure that no undue obstacles are placed in the way of our prosecuting authorities and that the Bill, when enacted, will be as effective and fool-proof as possible. That is why I am proposing this new section which is modelled on a provision in the Australian child sex tourism legislation.
The amendment put forward by the Minister of State is eminently sensible and no rational person could oppose it. There is no doubt that there has been avoidance of the law because birth certificates could not be located. This provision is not included in the original Bill although I must say that all the amendments put forward to date by the Minister for State are included in so far as I can gauge in the Bill as presented. We will not quibble and we accept this amendment in the spirit in which it is put forward.
I welcome the statement by the Deputy that no rational person could oppose the amendment. I have some disagreement with his other statement, that to a large extent what we have proposed on previous amendments was included in his Bill. The very fact that we are now at a new section 8 would indicate that substantial changes have been made.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 4, before section 4, to insert the following new section:
"9.—Where a person has been acquitted or convicted, in a place other than the State, of an offence, that person shall not be proceeded against for an offence under this Act or an offence which is an offence by virtue of this Act, in respect of the act constituting the first-mentioned offence.".
This amendment deals with the rule against double jeopardy. It expands upon what is already contained in section 4(1) of the Bill. Section 4(1) merely states that nothing in the Bill shall affect the legal principle of double jeopardy. As the Minister for Justice made clear on Second Stage, that provision raises a number of difficulties. First, there is the point that it would not be appropriate merely to refer to the legal principle of double jeopardy in a Bill or statute without stating explicitly the rule.
Second, practical difficulties could arise from the possible interpretations that could be taken from the current wording of section 4(1). Deputies will know that the rule against double jeopardy is that a person should not face repeated prosecution for the same offence. Section 4(1), however, does not state whether the rule is to apply in respect of criminal proceedings taken in this country or in some other jurisdiction. One view of the present wording would be that it would remain open to our courts to try a person in respect of offences already prosecuted abroad. This would clearly contravene the rule.
The wording of the amendment is modelled on corresponding provisions in the Australian child sex tourism legislation. It sets out the rule against double jeopardy in full and this avoids the difficulties I mentioned.
This amendment illustrates clearly the truth of my earlier statement that the Minister for Justice, Deputy Nora Owen, never uses one word where 1,000 words will do. Section 4(1) of the Bill states: "Nothing in the Act shall affect the legal principle of double jeopardy." That is a very clear statement of fact. It has been wisely stated — and it is not irrelevant to this situation — that one should never give a reason for laws in laws. I would suggest that precision of language in statutes is the way to proceed and this has been established as a principle more than once. Everybody knows what the principle of double jeopardy means and everybody realises that one cannot have people tried twice for the same offence. Nothing could be clearer than the wording as set out in section 4(1) but if the Minister wants to become engaged in a crossword puzzle inspired by the thesaurus, there is very little I can do. What he is actually saying in four or five lines was said in almost one line in our Bill. Since it follows the principle of the Bill and since it provides for what is already in the legislation, I will not argue about it. I am interested in the legislation being implemented to tackle child sexual abuse. Neither I nor Deputy Ryan is interested in becoming involved in a political row about the wording. That was never the objective of the legislation, nor should it be. I accept the amendment of the Minister of State although I have considerable justification for my observations.
I am not sure how many words the Deputy used, but I will reply by using fewer. His Bill does not make the position clear. "Double jeopardy" refers to people being tried more than once for the same crime. We want to make it clear that this also relates to crimes which have been tried in other jurisdictions. It is necessary to do that. The Deputy referred to a word puzzle. Clearly, they must also be puzzled in Australia.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 4, before section 5, to insert the following new section:
"5.—(1) Where, on the application of a member of the Garda Síochána, a judge of the District Court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that evidence of or relating to an offence under this Act is to be found on premises specified in the application, the judge may issue a warrant for the search of those premises.
(2) A warrant issued under this section shall authorise a named member of the Garda Síochána, alone or accompanied by any other member of the Garda Síochána, to enter, within one week from the date of the warrant, and if necessary by the use of force, the premises named in the warrant, and to search it and seize anything found thereon appearing to be evidence relating to an offence under this Act.
(3) A member of the Garda Síochána acting in accordance with a warrant issued under this section may require any person found on premises to which the warrant relates to furnish the said member with his or her name and address.
(4) Any person who obstructs or attempts to obstruct any member of the Garda Síochána acting in accordance with a warrant issued under this section or who fails or refuses to comply with a requirement under this section shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £1,500 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.
(5) A member of the Garda Síochána may arrest without warrant any person whom he or she suspects of committing or having committed an offence under this section.".
This new section deals with the power of search. The amendment proposes to give the Garda power to search premises as part of an investigation into the offences under the Bill.
The seizure of documentary evidence may in some cases be an important means of assembling evidence of offences under the Bill. A travel agent's records might, for example, be relevant to a charge of organising child sex tourism. Subsection (1) enables a judge of the District Court to issue a search warrant in relation to premises where he or she is satisfied that evidence relating to an offence under the Bill is to be found on the premises. Under subsection (2) the search warrant will authorise a particular garda, alone or accompanied by other gardaí, to enter, if necessary by force, the premises named on the warrant to search them and to seize anything appearing to be evidence. Under subsection (3) a garda searching a premises may require any person found on the premises to give his or her name and address. Subsection (4) provides that anybody who obstructs or attempts to obstruct a garda acting in accordance with a search warrant or who fails or refuses to comply with a requirement to give his or her name and address will be liable to a £1,500 fine or 12 months' imprisonment or both. Under subsection (5) a member of the Garda Síochána will have power to arrest without warrant any person whom the garda suspects of committing or having committed an offence under the section. Such a power is needed where, for example, a person tries to prevent or delay the search of a premises by obstructing the gardaí.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 4, before the Schedule, to insert the following new Schedule:
1. Section 1 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935.
2. Section 2 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935.
3. Section 2 of the Criminal Law (Rape) Act, 1981.
4. Section 2 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act, 1990.
5. Section 3 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act, 1990.
6. Section 4 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act, 1990.
7. Section 3 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993.
8. Section 4 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993.
9. Section 5 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993.".
This amendment would insert a new Schedule in place of the Schedule in the Bill. The present Schedule has a number of shortcomings which were highlighted by the Minister for Justice on Second Stage. It seems to have been drafted without reference to recent sexual offences legislation and it refers to two offences which have been repealed. This means that three of the references to enactments must be changed.
The reference to section 11 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, was intended to be a reference to section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885, which deals with gross indecency between male persons. The latter enactment, however, has been repealed and section 4 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993 replaces it. The references to section 61 of the 1861 Act and to section 4 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885 were intended to deal with buggery with persons and the defilement of mentally impaired persons respectively. Repeals by the 1993 Act mean that these references are no longer appropriate. The references in the new Schedule are to the up-to-date equivalents, that is, sections 3 and 5 of the 1993 Act. Deputies will agree that the Schedule should be updated to take account of changes in the law on sexual offences given effect by the 1993 Act.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 3, to delete lines 5 to 11 and substitute the following:
"AN ACT TO EXTEND THE CRIMINAL LAW OF THE STATE TO SEXUAL ACTS INVOLVING CHILDREN DONE OUTSIDE THE STATE BY CITIZENS OF THE STATE OR BY PERSONS ORDINARILY RESIDENT IN THE STATE AND TO PROVIDE FOR RELATED MATTERS.".
This amended long Title is the formula recommended by the draftsman to reflect more accurately the content of the Bill.
I have no difficulty with amending the long Title. The principle of the legislation remains. Deputy Ryan and I welcome that and I will not argue about semantics.
I do not wish to argue about semantics either. The Title had to be changed. I am holding a copy of the original Bill and the Deputies can see how many amendments had to be made to improve it. On short reflection the Deputies will recognise that a change in the Title of the Bill was required.
There is no problem with that. The Sexual Offences Bill was introduced by me on behalf of Fianna Fáil to deal with reporting of incest proceedings, following a judgment by the court that they could no longer be reported. The Minister for Justice introduced legislation which would have allowed health board officials to be present in court to listen to proceedings. However, she did not introduce legislation to permit the reporting of details of evidence. Wisely, she took my legislation and introduced it in the Seanad. That legislation, which was really our legislation, was passed. That did not matter. What mattered was that my party assisted the Minister for Justice in achieving an admirable objective.
This legislation is brought forward in a spirit of magnanimity. It is not my concern if it is accepted with begrudgery; I am concerned that the legislation be put on the Statute Book.
I propose the following draft report:
The Select Committee has considered the Bill, has made amendments thereto and has amended the title of the Bill to read as follows: "AN ACT TO EXTEND THE CRIMINAL LAW OF THE STATE TO SEXUAL ACTS INVOLVING CHILDREN DONE OUTSIDE THE STATE BY CITIZENS OF THE STATE OR BY PERSONS ORDINARILY RESIDENT IN THE STATE AND TO PROVIDE FOR RELATED MATTERS."
Report agreed to.
Ordered to report to the Dáil accordingly.
I thank the Minister of State and Deputies Ryan and O'Donoghue, the sponsors of the Bill. It is a timely Bill which deals with very important areas in which our legislation was not strong enough, particularly in regard to citizens and residents of this State acting illegally abroad who did not incur sanctions on their return to this jurisdiction. I particularly thank Senator Henry whose name cropped up more than anyone else's during the debate. She introduced the Bill in the Seanad and she and Deputy O'Donoghue and Deputy Eoin Ryan have performed a service for the parliamentary process.
The Minister indicated the need for a number of amendments, all of which have been accepted by the Opposition. We now have a strong and important Bill. This Select Committee will report to the Dáil in plenary session at the earliest possible opportunity so that the Bill can be on the Statute Book as quickly as possible. I thank members and the Minister of State for their contributions.
I thank you, Chairman, for the fair and impartial manner in which you have chaired this meeting. I also thank the Minister of State, his officials and the clerks to the Select Committee. I acknowledge the contribution made by Fr. Shay Cullen who heavily supported the legislation when it was drafted and strongly encouraged the Government to accept it. I also acknowledge his work in this area.
We often read in newspapers about priests being charged with child sexual abuse. It is often forgotten that such people are a tiny minority and that the overwhelming majority of those involved in religious life, in this country and throughout the world, are fighting human calamities and child sexual abuse. It is important to recognise that truth.
I also acknowledge the contribution made to our deliberations on this serious matter by Muireann Ní Bhroinn. I especially thank my friend and colleague, Deputy Eoin Ryan, who gave so much assistance with this legislation and without whom it would not be before this Select Committee today. It was a great honour and privilege to work with him in producing this legislation. I also commend Senator Henry for her interest and efforts in relation to this serious matter.
I compliment the Fianna Fáil Deputies who introduced this Bill. When I was in Opposition I often objected to the fact that only Ministers and their advisers seemed to be able to think up anything and Bills were often rejected. Governments change and those who know everything sometimes end up in Opposition. Amendments must be made to Bills and the legal drafting of legislation is obviously very important.
I compliment the Minister of State on accepting the Bill and tabling amendments, although some of them appeared to Deputy O'Donoghue to be semantics. It is not easy in Opposition to get all the references one wants included. It is good there is all round co-operation in dealing with this serious matter. It is important to have legislation which will protect children.
I thank you, Chairman, for the way you dealt with proceedings this afternoon. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Currie, and the Minister, Deputy Owen, for accepting the Bill and getting unanimous support for it. I also thank Senator Henry and congratulate her on her Bill and the work she has done on this issue, both in Ireland and at the recent conference in Sweden.
I agree with Deputy O'Donoghue that Fr. Cullen played a very important part in this legislation. When we met him recently at the conference his first question was about the Bill. I am sure he will be delighted it has now moved on another stage and will soon be enacted. I also thank Muireann Ní Bhroinn for her help and ECPAT in England, which is the real mover behind the international campaign to outlaw this behaviour. I also thank my colleague, Deputy O'Donoghue, for his invaluable legal expertise and his commitment to the Bill from the moment we began work on it. I could not have done it without his help and expertise.
Everyone has been thanked at this stage. However, in case it might be wrongly alleged that I am begrudging in some way, I also wish to put on record my thanks to the two Deputies and Senator Henry. Senator Henry's Bill made a substantial change to this one when we decided to take that on board. I welcomed the opportunity to discuss her experiences in Finland and Stockholm with her. I greatly welcome her contribution. I also had the opportunity in Stockholm to discuss this and other matters with Fr. Shay Cullen and I join in the thanks expressed to him.
A good day's work has been done. This is part of the wider job we have to do to improve the situation of children, both in this country and, as far as we can, internationally. I hope today's experience, allied with other actions which I have taken and intend to take in the Department of Health and the Department of Education, will continue to contribute substantially to the improvement of the situation of children. I thank you, Chairman, your staff, my staff and everyone else for a successful day's work.
The Select Committee adjourned at 3.50 p.m.