As I stated last week when the latest crime statistics were released by the CSO, the rise in the recorded incidents of sexual assault, and particularly incidents of rape, is something the Government continues to take very seriously. Those found to have committed such abhorrent crimes will face the full force of the criminal justice system.
While the Deputy will appreciate that the investigation of sexual offences is conducted by An Garda Síochána in the first instance, the Government has also moved to strengthen the legislative provisions in place to deal with these crimes. In this context, the Deputy will be aware that the enactment of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 was a significant development of the law on sexual offences, putting in place a statutory definition for consent to a sexual act. This definition is both clear and wide-ranging, to ensure that the law is succinct and clear in what constitutes rape in this jurisdiction. Furthermore, the Act identifies those most vulnerable to sexual exploitation and it targets those who would take advantage of that.
In addition, the Government recently approved the drafting of two further pieces of legislation. These are the criminal law (sexual offences) (amendment) Bill, which will provide for presumptive minimum sentences for repeat sexual offenders, and the sex offenders (amendment) Bill, which proposes a number of amendments to the Sex Offenders Act 2001 following a review of the management of offenders under that Act. The scheme also includes provisions for the electronic monitoring of sex offenders, and court powers to prohibit a sex offender from working with children. It is my hope that both pieces of legislation will be progressed through the Oireachtas as expeditiously as possible. I am, of course, very open to improvement of these Bills by amendment as they go through the Houses
I assure the Deputy that the Government remains committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement and provide reassurance to citizens. I assure the Deputy not only about my concern at these latest figures but also on my commitment to act to ensure that we, as Government, do our best in the circumstances.