Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Questions (301)

Denis Naughten


301. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he plans to publish the sex offenders (amendment) Bill; the reason for the delay in presenting a stamped copy of the Bill to Cabinet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37662/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I appreciate and understand the concern which communities can have in relation to the issue of rehabilitation of sex offenders and in relation to measures to protect public safety.

The General Scheme of the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill was developed by my Department following a comprehensive review of current law and administrative practice. The General Scheme was approved by Government in June 2018 and it is available on my Department’s website.

The Bill is currently with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting. My officials and that Office are working together to bring the Bill to a final draft for publication as soon as possible.

As the Deputy may be aware, the purpose of the Bill is to enhance current systems for assessment and management of convicted sex offenders and to put those systems on a statutory footing. While the drafting process is not yet complete, the main provisions are expected to include:

- Stricter notification requirements including requiring offenders to notify Gardaí of their address upon release from custody, or any subsequent change of address, within 3 days as opposed to the existing 7 days.

- Provisions to allow for fingerprinting and photographing the offender, where necessary to confirm their identity.

- Enhanced supervision of high-risk offenders, including, in limited circumstances, the electronic monitoring of offenders subject to post-release supervision orders.

- The placing on a legislative footing of assessment teams to assess and manage the risk posed by sex offenders.

- Provisions whereby a court can prohibit a sex offender from working with children.

- Provision for a statutory basis for the necessary disclosure of information relating to a high-risk offender on the ‘sex offenders register’. The information in relation to an offender which may be disclosed include the name, address and threat posed by the offender. It is intended that the disclosure would only be made to the minimum number of people necessary to avert a serious risk to safety.

I would also point out that there are already important provisions in existing law which can be used in the management of sex offenders after they have been released.

The Sex Offenders Act 2001 already provides that a Court can impose conditions on a convicted sex offender as part of their post-release supervision. Further, where An Garda Síochána believe that a convicted offender poses a serious risk to the public, it can also apply to the courts for a Sex Offender Order under s.16 of the 2001 Act. A Sex Offender Order can prohibit the offender from doing anything that the Court considers necessary in order to ensure that the public is protected from serious harm.