Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 11 Dec 1996

Vol. 149 No. 13

Sexual Offences (Jurisdiction) Bill, 1995: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I strongly commend this Bill to the House. The House will be aware that this is an Opposition Bill. Fianna Fáil has introduced many Bills during this session in the Dáil, some of which were accepted by the Government. One of the principal Bills accepted was the Organised Crime (Restraint and Disposal of Illicit Assets) Bill, 1996, although the Government was railroaded by a sense of panic into its acceptance. However, it was accepted in good faith for which I am thankful.

This Bill is primarily designed to combat the growing problem of child sex tourism. It is a sad indictment of our society that we have to introduce such a Bill and that people would engage in any form of sexual activity with underage persons either in this or any other jurisdiction. Our society has been traumatised in recent years by revelations of sexual activity with underage persons, particularly children. There was a feeling that this type of activity did not take place here but unfortunately we have found otherwise and it is a matter of great sadness and regret to everybody.

Fianna Fáil is not being moralistic in proposing this Bill, but it wants to send out a clear message to those who engage in child sex tourism or who promote and benefit from it that this behaviour is absolutely unacceptable. It is appalling to witness television reports of young children in Indonesia, the Philippines, South America and other poor parts of the world who are exploited by people with a particular perversion who have the money to escape from a society where these matters are more controlled to a jurisdiction where young children are more vulnerable. I congratulate Deputies E. Ryan and O'Donoghue for their initiative in this regard and I hope the Government will accede to this Bill. The Minister of State could not give us an assurance today that Irish people are not involved in travelling to these countries for the purpose of child sex tourism or to exploit the vulnerable, the defenceless and the weak.

This Bill effectively seeks to extend the jurisdiction of Irish courts to activities that take place in a foreign country. This is a unique concept and one that my colleague will speak on at greater length. I do not know of any other Act of the Oireachtas which seeks to impose a penalty on an illegal activity in a foreign country. Section 2 of the Bill proposes that it will be an offence to commit certain acts if those acts are illegal in the foreign country and also in this jurisdiction. There is a dual test for the operation of this Bill. The relevant Acts are listed in the Schedule — section 1 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935; section 2 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act, 1990, etc. If the Government felt that list should be extended, Fianna Fáil would approach it with an open mind. The bottom line is that there must be a law whereby people who engage in this hideous illegal activity are stopped. That does not only involve those who engage in this activity.

I am delighted there is a section in the Bill which includes tour operators who promote and benefit from such activity. Is it acceptable for a tour operator to knowingly transport a person to a foreign jurisdiction for the purposes of committing an act which is not an offence in that jurisdiction but is an offence here? The dual test will also apply for a travel agent. It must be an offence in Ireland and in the foreign jurisdiction and I hope no one will cloud this point during the debate. Anybody who engages in this activity or who promotes, organises or benefits in a commercial sense from this activity is to be sanctioned under this proposed Bill. I strongly hope this House will support it.

Child prostitution generally takes place in the poorest countries of the world. Poverty is greater than ever, although global income has risen. In 1992 global income was $23 trillion, up from $4 trillion in 1952, yet the share of this to the poorest 20 per cent of the world's population fell from 2.3 per cent to 1.4 per cent over the same period. It is in the poorest parts of the world that people seek to ply their evil trade — Peru, Brazil, Guatemala, some African countries, Indonesia although wealth is rising rapidly there, Malaysia, the Philippines etc.

International tourist arrivals totalled 567 million in 1995. This represents a seven fold increase since 1960. One presumes and hopes that an infinitesimally small percentage is involved in child sex tourism. However, any percentage is too much.

There is an obligation on Ireland, pursuant to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to enact this type of protective legislation. The Minister of State will be aware that several countries have already done this, including Finland, Norway and Sweden, who since the 1960s have extended their jurisdictions for these cases. They have been joined by Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, the USA and Taiwan. A growing list of countries have given themselves extra territorial jurisdiction to deal with this problem. I hope the Government will support this concept.

The Bill is relatively short and contains 11 sections. Section 2 deals with sexual offences committed outside the State and establishes the dual test provision whereby the act must constitute an offence under the law of the place where it occurs and must also, if done within the State, constitute an offence under an enactment referred to in the Schedule to the Bill. If this happens, the person involved would be guilty of an offence and the penalty to which the person would be liable would be the penalty applicable to it in Ireland. If, for example, the penalty in Ireland for a breach of section 1 of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1935, is one year's imprisonment and an Irish court finds that a person had breached that offence in, say, the Philippines, the penalty proposed under the Bill would also be one year's imprisonment. We are not seeking the penalty imposed by a foreign jurisdiction; the penalty should be that imposed by an Irish court.

Section 3(1) states:

A person who, in the State, makes an arrangement to transport a person to a place in or outside the State or who authorises the making of such an arrangement for or on behalf of another person, knowingly for the purpose of enabling that person or any other person to commit an offence, which is an offence by virtue of section 2 (1) of this Act, shall be guilty of an offence.

The section deals with travel agents or those who organise the travel of Irish people to foreign countries for the purposes of committing an offence. There is nothing wrong with travelling to Malaysia, the Philippines, Brazil, Peru, etc., in the normal course of business, tourism or whatever, provided one does not travel knowingly to commit a child sex offence or an offence listed in the Schedule to the Bill. Similarly, travel agents are guilty of an offence if they know their clients are travelling for the purposes of committing such offences.

Section 4 relates to the advocacy of the committing of an offence and is a standard clause in many Bills while section 5 relates to offences by bodies corporate. Section 6 relates to penalties, which can include on summary conviction, a fine not exceeding £1,500 or 12 months' imprisonment, or on conviction on indictment, which means conviction by a criminal jury, a fine not exceeding £10,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both.

Section 9, which relates to double jeopardy, is important. It states:

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...

If somebody has been tried and either convicted or acquitted of a specific act in a foreign jurisdiction it will not be open to the Irish courts to bring a similar criminal charge for that act.

The Bill is a short one. It is to the point and it is necessary. I pay tribute to the incredible work undertaken by members of religious orders in some of these countries and who have been especially active in the fight against child prostitution. I mention Fr. Shay Cullen in this context. Deputy Eoin Ryan met Fr. Cullen and discussed child sex tourism with him. Fr. Cullen and others like him should be honoured and listened to. I would favour him addressing a special sitting of this House to bring us up to date with the realities and with the way people, especially children, are being exploited in the Third World.

The message must go to child sex abusers that there is no sanctuary for them in this country. There should be no sanction for them in any other country. It is unacceptable behaviour by any civilised rule.

I pay tribute to Deputy O'Donoghue and Deputy Eoin Ryan for their imagination and perseverance in bringing this Bill through the Dáil. I hope that the Bill can be accepted unanimously in a positive spirit. We will be doing the deprived, weak and vulnerable sections of the poorest parts of the Third World a great deal of assistance if we pass the Bill.

Child sex tourism must stop quickly. I hope all sides of the House will assist in giving the Bill a speedy passage. If and when it becomes law I also hope the Government will make available the necessary resources to ensure that anybody in breach of the law, whether it be a tourist or travel agent, will be prosecuted quickly. I commend the Bill to the House.

As Minister with particular responsibility for children I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on this Bill. I am happy to support the Bill; indeed I am keen to see its important protective measures brought into operation as soon as possible.

It would be remiss of me not to put on record my appreciation of Senator Henry's valuable contribution to updating the law in this area. The essence of her Child Sex Tours Bill is incorporated in this Bill and has added an important dimension to the child protection provisions concerned. Indeed provisions in Senator Henry's Bill form the basis for a number of sections in the Bill and I will give details of the sections in her Bill later which correspond to those in the one before the House.

I was somewhat disappointed that Senator Mulcahy did not take the opportunity to pay tribute to his colleague for the part she played in the preparation of this Bill. I would also like to acknowledge at this point the contribution by Deputy O'Donoghue and Deputy Eoin Ryan, who introduced the Bill in the other House and to whom I expressed my appreciation at that time.

There has been increasing concern in recent years about the international dimension to the need to protect children. Particular concern has been raised by reports of large numbers of children being sexually abused and exploited in many parts of the world. The indications are that the problem is on the increase and that without concerted action it will continue to grow. A United Nations working group reported that child prostitution may involve millions of children. UNICEF estimated in 1994 that at least one million children were involved in child prostitution in Asia alone. Those statistics disclose child prostitution on an alarming scale and a large proportion of it involves what is referred to as child sex tourism.

It seems that many factors contribute to the problem of child sex tourism. Many commentators maintain that poverty is one of the primary causes of child prostitution because it results in desperate need and limited employment opportunities and, therefore, vulnerability to exploitation. Thus, for instance, parents can be easy prey to procurement agents who in some parts of the world scour villages in search of young children.

The greater ease with which people can span the globe these days is certainly an important factor in facilitating child sex tourism. The problem may be added to by poor laws and inadequate law enforcement in the receiving countries, that is, the haunts of child sex tourists. This means that the law is not acting as an effective deterrent in those countries.

The fear of contracting AIDS could well be an important factor in fuelling the recent increase in the demand for children. Child sex tourists often believe, mistakenly in many cases, that children are less likely to have AIDS and are, therefore, safer sex partners.

Child sex tourism is an abhorrent and gross violation of children's human rights and has the most serious consequences for its victims. Deep concern has been expressed about the psychological and emotional trauma sustained by children who are the victims of that scourge. The children concerned are not only treated as sexual objects resulting in the complete loss of their dignity, self-esteem and confidence, but they are often subjected to inhumane treatment, including beatings, torture and enslavement. Such children are also at high risk of becoming adult prostitutes, drug addicts and delinquents. Rehabilitation programmes are often unsuccessful. Of course, one of the most frightening consequences of child sex tourism is the children's exposure to the AIDS virus.

That child sex tourism is often commercially motivated makes the abuse particularly sickening. It is the unfortunate reality in many parts of the world that child sex tourism has become a lucrative industry for many ruthless people.

Any lingering doubts that may have existed in some quarters about the need for action in the area of child sexual exploitation and abuse were swept away by events last August. Those events gave a massive impetus to progress in this area and ensured that the problem of child sexual abuse found its rightful place at the top of political agendas.

The first of those events was the detection of a paedophile ring in Belgium. That case shocked not just Belgium but all of Europe and beyond. It heralded a sea change, a major shift, in general attitudes. Before that case, while there was concern about child sexual abuse, for many that concern manifested itself in an abstract way. There may also have been a naivete in many quarters about the nature and extent of such abuse. The Belgian case changed all that. It opened our eyes to the vileness of paedophile rings. It showed us how organised paedophiles are. It shocked us with its chilling accounts of the prolonged suffering and, ultimately, in some cases, the tragic deaths of the victims. We owe it to those victims to do all that is humanly possible to eradicate that plague.

The second event in August to highlight the child sexual abuse problem was the Stockholm World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. As a participant in the congress, which was also attended by some Members of the Oireachtas, including Senator Henry, I felt it made a valuable contribution. Not only did it draw attention to the extent of child sexual exploitation, it set out an agenda for action. That agenda amounts to a practical plan for progress in this area and it will be followed up in the near future when the UN circulates it to all UN member states. That welcome initiative represents an important first step in putting into practice the commitments which Governments entered into in Stockholm.

When it comes to tackling the child sex tourism problem, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out a clear international standard for us to follow. Article 34 of that convention urges states to take action to protect children from all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation. The Stockholm world congress elaborates on that standard and, in relation to sex tourism in particular, calls on states to develop or strengthen and implement laws to criminalise the acts of the nationals of sending countries when committed against children in receiving countries. Measures at various levels, national, regional and international, are called for.

At the European level there certainly has been effective action in relation to the problem during the Irish Presidency of the European Union. For the benefit of Senators who may not be fully aware of those developments I will give a brief outline of the action taken.

The Justice and Home Affairs Council held in Brussels on 28 and 29 November gave political approval to a number of important measures to deal with the problem of trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children. The first measure was an Irish Presidency proposal to extend the mandate of the European Drugs Unit to trafficking in human beings. This will cover the activities of paedophiles and those who supply children to them, as well as the trafficking in women for the purposes of sexual exploitation. In effect, it will confer on the EDU the responsibilities in relation to this form of activity which will ultimately be held by the EDU's successor, Europol, when the convention establishing that organisation is ratified by all EU member states. The extension of the EDU's remit will facilitate co-operation and the exchange of information between police forces and allow the EDU to provide any assistance it can in relation to these activities.

The second measure agreed was a Belgian proposal to establish a programme for the exchange and training of persons responsible for dealing with sexual exploitation of children and trafficking in human beings. The third measure was a joint Belgian and Irish Presidency proposal concerning the creation of a directory of competences and specialisations in the fight against particular crimes of this nature. Those proposals will significantly assist international co-operation between operational police forces.

The fourth measure approved by the Justice and Home Affairs Council is probably the most relevant in the context of the Bill before us. The Council approved an instrument which obliges all member states to undertake a major review of their laws on the sexual exploitation of children and trafficking in human beings. This will mean that all member states will make trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children criminal offences and will punish those offences accordingly. Of particular importance is the commitment by member states to punish these offences no matter where they occur. This will ensure a uniform approach to child sex tourism. Member states also undertake to enhance co-operation and to give appropriate support to the victims of these crimes.

Following that brief summary of developments in Europe, I wish to focus on the anti-child sex tourism measures needed at national level, both in countries which receive the sex tourists and the countries from which they come, the sending countries. A number of the receiving countries often associated with child sex tourism, such as Thailand, Taiwan and the Philippines, have in recent years tightened their child protection laws. It is heartening to read articles in the newspapers, such as the report about an individual who, last October, was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment by a Filipino court for organising child sex tourism. In some receiving countries, however, the adequate enforcement of anti-child sex tourism laws may be a problem, a point to which I adverted earlier.

As far as the sending countries are concerned, in 1988 the Council of Europe highlighted the problem of child prostitution and trafficking of children and recommended that European countries consider establishing extra-territorial jurisdiction in such cases. The EU measures to which I referred earlier give a new and strong impetus to EU member states to strengthen their laws in this area.

A number of European countries already have anti-child sex tourism laws; Sweden and Norway have long had potential to prosecute nationals for offences committed extra-territorially. Other European countries have, in recent times, taken steps to strengthen their laws. For example, in 1993 the German Parliament extended the application of its criminal code to sexual offences against children committed extra-territorially by German nationals.

We are now engaged in a similar legislative process and this brings me to the Bill before the House. It might be of assistance if I explained some of the thinking behind the sections as practically all of them reflect extensive amendments which I moved in the other House. However, I wish to make a few points about the unusual history of the legislation before the House and a number of general points about it. Arising from increased awareness of the problem of child sex tourism in recent years, together with concern about the rapid spread of the problem, two Private Members' Bills were tabled last year. This Bill was introduced in the other House and as most, if not all, the Members are aware, the Child Sex Tours Bill, 1995, was presented by Senator Henry in the Seanad.

The Government decided to give its backing to both Bills, subject to amendments, and the Select Committee on Legislation and Security subsequently agreed to Government amendments to the Bill before the House. The amendments not only incorporated into that Bill the essence of this House's Bill but strengthened the provisions of both Bills. The Bill before us has two main focuses; it targets the child sex tourist by providing that Irish citizens or persons ordinarily resident here who engage in unlawful sex with children abroad can be dealt with by our courts. It also targets organisers by making it an offence to arrange transport for, or to transport, child sex tourists or to publish information on child sex tourism.

A key idea which guides the Bill's provisions is the importance of maintaining consistency with the existing law applicable to sexual offences committed against children here. It would be most inappropriate to have a situation in which the proposed protections for children abroad were greater than those for children here.

Hear, hear.

Section 1 defines the term "child" to mean someone under 17 years. I am aware that Senator Henry's Bill referred to an age of 16, but 17 is more appropriate because it is the age of consent to sexual relations in this jurisdiction.

Section 2 is one of the Bill's most important sections and its key provision is subsection (1) which extends our criminal jurisdiction to enable prosecutions to be taken against Irish citizens, or persons ordinarily resident here, who commit sexual offences against children abroad. The way in which the subsection makes a wrongful act committed abroad an offence here is important. By proposing the extension of our criminal jurisdiction, all related criminal law provisions will automatically apply.

Subsection (1) provides for four preconditions to an offence. First, the perpetrator of the wrongful act concerned must be a citizen of the State, or be ordinarily resident in the State. Second, the victim must be a child, as defined. Third, a requirement of dual criminality needs to be included. This means that the wrongful act must constitute an offence under the law of the foreign state where the act occurs. Fourth, the act must be one which, if it took place here, would constitute a sexual offence here under an enactment specified in the Schedule to the Bill. The offences concerned are: unlawful carnal knowledge of any girl under 15 years or any girl who is over 15 years and under 17 years; rape; sexual assault; aggravated sexual assault; rape under section 4 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993; buggery with a person under 17 years; gross indecency with a male person under 17 years and sexual intercourse, buggery or gross indecency with a mentally impaired person.

Section 2(3) and (4) deal with aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the commission of an offence which is an offence by virtue of subsection (1) of the section. Subsections (5) and (6) deal with a person who conspires with or incites another to commit, either inside or outside the State, an offence which is an offence by virtue of subsection (1). Subsection (7) defines a person who is ordinarily resident in the State as someone who has had his or her principal residence here for 12 months immediately before the commission of the offence.

The purpose of section 3 is to deter and, where necessary, penalise any person who arranges to transport or who transports a person for the purpose of child sex tourism. In so doing the intention is to incorporate in the Bill the essence of two new offences proposed by Senator Henry in her Child Sex Tours Bill.

Section 3(1) makes it an offence for a person to arrange to transport another person to a place inside or outside the State in the knowledge that that person is travelling for the purpose of committing a sexual offence against a child abroad. The subsection extends to a person who authorises the making of such an arrangement so that, for example, a manager behind the scenes cannot escape liability. Subsection (2) makes it an offence for a person to transport another person from anywhere in the State to a place inside or outside the State for the purpose of enabling the other person to commit a sexual offence against a child abroad. An offence under this provision could entail transporting a person between two places in Ireland as part of a journey to a foreign destination.

Section 4 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 in Senator Henry's Bill.

The purpose of section 5 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 sections 3 and 4 is committed by a body corporate, with the consent or connivance or neglect of an officer of that body, the officer concerned may be prosecuted. That section follows closely the text of a provision in Senator Henry's Bill.

Section 6 sets out the penalty maxima for offences created by 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 may be imposed.

Section 7 contains an important provision. Its purpose is to confer jurisdiction on 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.

Section 8 is also important 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 is under the age of 17 at the time of the court hearing or was under that age at the time of the alleged commission of an offence under sections 2 or 3. We should, I believe, 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 foolproof as possible. That is why that section, which is modelled on a provision in the Australian child sex tourism legislation, is included.

The rule against double jeopardy is dealt with under section 9. Senators will know that rule is intended to ensure that a person does not face repeated prosecution for the same offence. Again, the wording of that section is modelled on a corresponding provision in the Australian child sex tourism legislation. Section 10 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.

I hope the outline I have given of the Bill's provisions will be of assistance in helping this House understand the provisions as well as the thinking behind them. By way of general comment, it is fair to say that the Bill's progress has been marked by a spirit of co-operation which reflects the cross-party consensus on the Bill's central objective, that is, protecting children abroad from various forms of sexual abuse by predatory paedophiles. I have no doubt there will be a similar level of co-operation in this House. All of us in this House are appalled by the suffering of children at the hands of sex tourists and we must do all we can to stamp out that appalling scourge. This Bill represents important progress towards ensuring that there is no safe haven for the child sex tourist.

I cannot say how much I welcome the Minister bringing this Bill before the House and I compliment him on the work he and his officials have done to ensure it was introduced before the end of the Irish Presidency of the EU. This Bill is important not only to us — it is an example to other European countries which must also introduce such legislation. We are at centre stage because of our Presidency of the EU and it is splendid that the Minister has managed to prepare this legislation so rapidly.

The Bill had an unusual beginning and I thank the Minister for his nice accolades. When I first raised this topic, a package holidays Bill was going through the House. I decided it might be suitable to include a section in that Bill banning child sex tourism, although the Minister concerned was not sure if it was relevant. However, the Government was very co-operative when I introduced my Private Members' Bill to the House. Deputy O'Donoghue and Deputy Eoin Ryan are extremely grateful for the co-operation they received from the Government when bringing this Bill, which incorporates Government amendments, to the House.

I am sure many Members realise this is an appropriate day to bring the Bill to the House because it is 50th anniversary of the founding of UNICEF. As the Minister said, we attended a conference in Stockholm organised by UNICEF, ECPAT and the Swedish Government on child sex tourism. There was such dismay that this problem was so prevalent and that so little was being done about it that it was felt necessary to organise a conference. Indeed, when it was decided to hold the conference the dreadful events in Belgium this summer had not yet unfolded, which gave even more poignancy to the terrible lectures and seminars we had to sit through.

Rather than repeat what I said before about the problem of child sex tourism, I would like to refer to a section of the report launched today by UNICEF on the state of the world's children in terms of the commercial sexual expliotation of children. The report states that village loan sharks often act as procurers for city brothels, lending money to families that their daughters' work repays. The underground nature of the multi-billion dollar illegal industry in the commercial sexual expliotation of children makes it difficult to gather reliable data but NGOs in the field estimate that, each year, at least one million girls worldwide are lured or forced into this form of hazardous labour which can verge on slavery. Boys are also often exploited. When scandals about child prostitution in developing countries break in the international media, it is usually a story about the phenomenon called sex tourism in which holiday makers from the rich world, mainly although not exclusively men, travel to locations such as Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Thailand and elsewhere in search of sex with children.

The report also says we should not lose sight of the fact that many thousands of young girls in numerous countries serve the sexual appetites of local men from all social and economic backgrounds. We must take that point very seriously. That is why I am glad our children are covered by this Bill. We have been too ready to understand the problems abroad, but we take no interest in what is happening up the road. I assure Members that child prostitution takes place in this city. I said on television one night that a 14 year old had benefited from the Probation Act when she was caught for soliciting in this city. I thought someone might have said to me that was appalling, but I got no reaction to it. If one goes around the city and looks at the girls and boys on the street, it is obvious that children are involved in prostitution.

The report goes on to say that in the US alone at least 100,000 are involved. Direct links between the commercial sexual exploitation of children and other forms of exploitive labour are numerous. Notorious in their own right for appalling working conditions, Nepalese carpet factories, where 50 per cent of the workers are estimated to be children, are common sites of sexual exploitation by employers as well as recruitment centres for Indian brothels.

When the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Burton, launched the report this morning she asked us to consider when buying products, especially toys at Christmas, whether child labour has been used in their production. What pleasure we may consider giving to our children may have had an appalling affect on the lives of other children making such toys. The International Labour Organisation said that frequently child labour and child sexual expliotation coexist.

The report goes on to say children are especially powerless to reject abuse by employers, either as perpetrators or intermediaries. Village loan sharks often act as procurers for city brothels lending money to the family that the daughter's work must pay off. I am sure the Minister will remember that we were told about the green harvest in Stockholm. In Thailand, for example, farmers were lent money which would be repaid to the loan shark when the harvest was reaped in the autumn, but very often they repay the debt with one of their children. This is one of the main forms of expliotation in the Third World.

The report says that almost all such children are betrayed by those they trust and may end up travelling long distances across borders, which is a very serious problem. I visited eastern Europe recently and the people there are becoming increasingly alarmed by the fact that some of their children go missing; they fear they have gone to western Europe. The child is usually unable to speak the language of another country and that is a terrible problem. In a recent case an airline hostess reckoned something odd was taking place when she saw a child being taken by a man from one jurisdiction to another. There appeared to be a peculiar relationship between them so she alerted the authorities at the airplane's destination. I compliment that airline hostess. We must examine what type of protection we can give people who alert authorities to such trafficking. It is a serious problem between the Indian subcontinent and the Gulf area. There is little protection for children when they are taken by an adult to another country in an airplane. It happens very easily and, although it is not covered by this Bill, it is an area that must be dealt with.

Rescue and rehabilitation are complicated for such children. Senator Mulcahy referred to Fr. Shay Cullen. I cannot compliment Fr. Cullen enough on his work. He has talked extensively about the difficulties with rehabilitation of these children and it is important that we continue to support the work of UNICEF, which is involved in such rehabilitation. It was good to hear this morning that Ireland is the sixteenth highest contributor to UNICEF. Last year we contributed our highest amount ever.

The children often end up being prosecuted by the legal system which should be protecting them. Even if they manage to get home, perhaps after being deported as illegal immigrants, they may face stigma and rejection by their families and communities. Shunned, ignored and invisible they often have little choice but to return to the brothel or the streets. The physical and psychosocial damage inflicted by commercial sexual exploitation makes it one of the most hazardous forms of child labour. No matter how high the wages or how few the hours the children involved must confront serious health risks every day, including respiratory diseases, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, drug addiction and unwanted pregnancies. How many of these girls die from illegal abortions? They are also plunged into a distorted reality in which violence and distrust, shame and rejection are the norm. "We have the same place as bums in society", said a 15 year old Senegalese girl, exploited through prostitution. "Nobody wants to know us or be seen with us".

It is crucial that the international public should understand the layers of complicity that envelop the area of child exploitation. Was that ever better shown than by the case in Belgium? Although it is always easier and more comfortable to blame the exploiting pimps or perverts or even the victims themselves, no social sector can escape responsibility for the commercial exploitation of children. That is why I am delighted this Bill is so wide ranging. Families entrusted with the care, nurture and development of children may be complicit in allowing the child's sexual exploitation. Research has consistently indicated that child abuse and incest are common precursors of the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

In addition to the people who buy sex, there are the traffickers, agents and intermediaries who profit from the sale of children; airlines, hotel groups and travel agencies also benefit. There are the professional criminals and syndicates who run brothels and the entrepreneurs who organise sex tours or produce tourist brochures encouraging the notion that young boys or girls are sexually available; there are all the people, including corrupt or apathetic officials, who look the other way. Beyond these actors are the more elusive and impersonal influences that contribute to the child sex trade, such as a deeply rooted gender discrimination that blunts the perception of violence committed against girls. Global market forces have also contributed to the problem by widening the gap between rich and poor, encouraging migration, destabilising families and destroying support systems and safety nets. Conflicts and wars, dozens of which occur around the world, also create conditions in which children are sexually exploited.

The problem is out in the open after decades of what has amounted to a cross-cultural conspiracy of silence. The World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, held in Sweden in August 1996, put the issue on the world's agenda for the first time. The agenda for action agreed by participants will guide governments in developing programmes to address the problem.

I congratulate the Minister of State on being to the forefront in taking action in this regard. A few legislative developments that are due to take place in the future should be borne in mind. I am delighted the Child Pornography Bill is being brought forward. It is important and will be complementary to this Bill. I am pleased with the inclusion of the section which provides that a birth certificate need not be produced. The registration of births in some countries is not what it should be. Perhaps we could encourage our aid workers to promote the registration of births. We have many workers with Concern, APSO and so forth and it should be pointed out to them that it would be useful if they would bring this topic to people's attention.

The internet was discussed in Stockholm. It is a serious international problem and will be difficult to deal with. It is reckoned that some form of self-regulation will have to take place. It is hoped this will be achieved rapidly because international regulation of the internet will be difficult but not impossible. Will the Minister of State do his best to promote the regulation of the internet with regard to the sexual exploitation of children? The issue falls within the spirit although not the letter of the Bill.

I am glad this issue is being dealt with in the course of the European Presidency. A friend of mine, who is a member of the House of Commons and is trying to promote similar legislation, told me it will be a great help to be able to say "even the Irish are doing something about it". I hope the remaining countries in the European Union will follow the example of the Minister of State by promoting their legislation in this regard with speed and energy. I compliment the Minister of State on the Bill and thank him for bringing it before the House.

This Bill is the product of co-operation by all sides of the House. I compliment Senator Henry, Deputy Eoin Ryan, Deputy O'Donoghue, the Minister of State and his Department on their work The combination of forces has produced a substantial Bill to deal with a serious international problem.

The Bill confers on the Irish authorities the power to prosecute in our courts Irish nationals who commit sexual offences abroad. It is an important power. In the debate, many speakers have suggested that this problem is a result of poverty and deprivation, particularly in Third World countries. That is true, but it is also a result of poverty of mind and spirit on the part of people who exploit the innocence of children, male and female. It is also the product of affluence. If people did not have plenty of money they would be unable to travel to other countries and spend it in this vile and ruthless manner. I am delighted this legislation is before the House and I hope it will reduce the incidence of these offences.

However, will it be possible to rid the world of this huge sex tourism industry? It is a multimillion pound business and it is well established. Most of the countries concerned are not members of the EU and are not even democracies, so one wonders how effective legislation can be, particularly with regard to countries where there are non-democratic systems of government. The UN and UNICEF have an important part to play and they intervene constantly. There are international laws of the sea and aviation; is it not possible to have a more affirmative international law on the exploitation of children? At least it is now hoped to have common legislation across the EU and the Bill is a step in that direction.

I am also pleased that the Bill applies to children within our jurisdiction. Judging from some contributions one would think child sexual exploitation and prostitution existed only in Third World countries but it occurs in this city and in every medium to large sized town in Ireland. We all encounter evidence of that during our political careers. In many cases the gardaí have been unable to take the necessary action to stop such exploitation—for instance, if it took place on private property the gardaí may have been refused entry because they did not have a warrant. The Bill gives the gardaí the legal power to take on those who exploit young boys and girls for prostitution purposes, so that when it is implemented, it will effectively address the problem. We are good at talking about what is happening abroad but we should also deal with what is happening at home. I am delighted that this Bill addresses the problem in our country.

The legislation does not specifically mention travel agents but it applies to those who provide facilities, advise people where to go and arrange the necessary transportation to areas where sex tourism occurs. Not only the employee who provides the advice but the company and its directors should also be liable for prosecution under section 3. World travel is becoming available with increasing ease. The Internet should also be closely watched, given the quick availability of information through it. Those individuals and companies who provide information of this nature through the Internet must also be liable under the Bill. I hope the Minister refers to this matter either in response to Second Stage or when discussing the various sections.

The Minister and the Irish Presidency must be complimented on the action they have taken to tackle the abuse of children. The record of this Presidency is particularly good; it has ensured that the mandate of the European Drugs Unit has been extended to include trafficking in human beings. I hope the unit will have sufficient support and personnel to pursue this line. There is often a relationship between the people involved in drugs and in human trafficking activities. Europol should get the necessary financial and personnel support to be effective in its work. Also under this Presidency, agreement has been reached on a Belgian proposal to exchange personnel and combine training of persons responsible for dealing with the sexual exploitation of children and trafficking in human beings. As no one country has all the necessary skills and knowledge so such co-operation between countries is a welcome development.

The third measure is the joint proposal by Belgium and the Irish Presidency concerning the creation of a directory of competencies and specialisations in the fight against particular crimes of this nature. Perhaps the Minister could explain this in more detail. Has he considered putting together a directory of offenders across the EU? One may argue that a person's constitutional rights may be affected by the type of information circulated but if someone has been proven to be a paedophile and has committed sexual offences against children, he should be put on an Interpol or Europol list which would be accessible to all countries concerned. That person's movements should be monitored so that no child in any country would be vulnerable to abuse.

The full rigours of the law must be brought to bear on any adult who would sexually abuse a child in an organised manner, such as through sex tourism. From that viewpoint, the penalties in this Bill are far too mild. Given the amount of money which are accrues through sex tourism, the heaviest possible financial penalties and terms of imprisonment should be imposed. The abuse of a child and the destruction of his or her innocence and wholesomeness is one of the gravest offences that can be committed. A person who is evil, vile and depraved enough to commit such an offence should receive a similar penalty to that for murder. That may appear strong but I hold that belief.

I have no sympathy for an adult who would commit an offence against a child. As adults we have responsibility to preserve the innocence of all children. Every child deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and to be given every opportunity to become as full a person as he or she can become. Anyone who impinges on the child's future deserves the full rigour of the law to be brought to bear on him or her. Before Committee Stage and Report Stage I ask the Minister seriously to reconsider the level of penalties suggested in section 6.

The proposal which obliges EU member states to undertake a major review of their laws on the sexual exploitation of children and the trafficking in human beings is commendable and I hope all states do so urgently. As has been stated previously in the House, the paedophile ring which was unearthed in early August shocked everyone. We associated sex tourism and child prostitution with underdeveloped countries yet in the centre of the EU was one of the most sinister paedophile rings in the world. The shock of that discovery was felt everywhere and it changed the focus of the attack on child trafficking and child prostitution. There is a need for greater urgency and awareness.

In the past we have all heard of children going missing. In rural Ireland in the 1960s a number of children went missing, never to be seen again. Usually there was a car seen along a road and the child was seen close by but never heard of again. One wonders where many of these misfortunate children went. We have every responsibility to educate our children, the public, our adults, and to protect our children as far as possible. This Bill goes a long way towards doing that and I commend all the parties involved.

I am concerned about how effective this can be as far as application across the world is concerned. This is an attempt to protect children. Hopefully, it will protect them here and in the EU where there is trafficking between member states. My concern is for countries in the Third World which have not a democratic system and which do not aspire to or have signed United Nations conventions on the rights of children. I hope that in our role as members of the EU we can explore further how this problem can be addressed at international level because it is an international issue and one that must be followed and promoted at international level, particularly within the United Nations. Ireland in its Presidency has made a major contribution and hopefully will continue to do so.

I welcome the fact that Deputy Eoin Ryan and Deputy O'Donoghue brought this Bill forward. It is very important but I have questions about it which maybe I should have asked before but which I just began to notice as we proceeded.

Some sections of the Bill should be strengthened. The Minister might answer a question on section 2 (1) which reads:

(a) constitutes an offence under the law of the place, and

(b) if done within the State, would constitute an offence...

Should that be "or"? What that means is that if there is a child prostitute in Thailand who is 16 years of age — and it is legal there — then no offence is committed although an offence would be committed here. I genuinely believe that should read "or", not "and". If we allow it go through as it is, the logic behind it would be to say that one could murder somebody in another country where it was legal but it would not be legal here so you could not prosecute them. Because child abuse is so terrible — it is a shocking crime — we should look at this. I do not know whether I will be putting down an amendment to that effect.

The Minister said: "The Bill also targets organisers by making it an offence to arrange transport for or to actually transport child sex tourists, or to publish information on child sex tourism". We should add "and pornography". As a psychologist I have dealt with many cases of child sexual abuse and child prostitution and they are probably no different here than in any other country. I could give details of some cases — of course I could not do that because of confidentiality — which are so shocking and depraved that I can think of nowhere they could come from except from pornography.

The proliferation of pornography in this country in recent times has to be seen to be believed. I have seen hard core pornography on sale in the newsagents in Blackrock and Stillorgan shopping centres. Most of this pornography — 99 per cent — is aimed at women. I believe implicitly — and I said it last night at a meeting — that if you go into one of these newsagents and buy a loaf of bread, a packet of cigarettes or a newspaper, and ignore or do not complain about what is on the top shelf you are ultimately damaging somebody's wife, sister, aunt, niece, daughter or eventually somebody's child. This has happened in every other country and we are doing it here now.

A lot of legislation in recent years is reactive rather than proactive. I am not arguing about the Bill which is good, but there are some sections that should be strengthened. The effect of pornography should be included. The abuse of a child, the most innocent of creatures, small, frightened, terrified, is the worst end of abuse. It is a frightening development that some of these children who are so inured to it now almost accept being abused as normal and unfortunately many of them grow up to be abusers. It is no good saying it has always been in society. That does not mean we should not try to do something about it; but I do not believe it has been as depraved. I believe a lot of depravity comes from the increased pornography that is pervading every aspect of society — newsagents, videos, television, etc. We have come to accept things which a few years ago we would have said were frightening.

We need education programmes also. Some flights to these countries, Condor flights from Germany to Sri Lanka, for example, show a half hour video to educate tourists about child prostitution. Some guide books like Fodor's and Lonely Planet, have started introducing material explaining the horrors of child prostitution. Trade organisations, when they hold national tourist exhibitions, have included information about child prostitution.

Senator Taylor-Quinn mentioned fines. Maybe I should not be saying this about a Bill produced by two Members of my own party with an input from the Government and Deputy Harney, but to fine some fellow £1,500 or 12 months in prison or in the case of conviction or indictment a fine of £10,000 is derisory. Do you know what you are doing to a child when they are abused? I would love to tell you some of the things I know but I cannot because not only are they confidential but I am afraid the newspapers would print them and you would not believe them. Satanic is the only word for them. These people should be fined much, much more than £1,500 on a summary conviction or £10,000 on a conviction. This is crazy when you think of the money being made out of it. It is like the drugs industry. Pornography, tourism, drugs and arms, the four big industries of the world, are the ones that should really be clamped down on. I ask the Minister to look at that again.

There are paedophile rings in this country as well as in Belgium and the Garda have knowledge of them. They pass information on youngsters from one to the other and the information is not just about getting sexual pleasure. It is about physical abuse of the worst kind, inflicting pain and suffering on young people and on children; it is using people in the most savage way possible. I am in favour of tagging paedophiles, electronically if necessary, because I can think of no cure for them. This may sound harsh but if you saw a child who was abused, or if your own child was abused, you would change your mind on the spot. Every day we read about cases in the papers and we must do everything we can to clamp down on this crime.

There are men who go abroad to abuse children; they abuse the most vulnerable people, those who are poor, who are not educated, who are frightened etc. In some countries these children are prosecuted. This is an added cruelty. Children in brothels are often arrested and taken into custody, not the men who abuse them. This is frightening. It is presumed that most abusers are men, but recently I have seen more and more cases of women abusing as well, which is very sad and frightening.

The Bill as it stands is all right. I ask the Minister if the last word of section 2 (1) (a) should be changed from "and" to "or". Perhaps there is some technical or legal reason for this provision which I do not understand. One of the people who brought forward this Bill is a lawyer and knows more about it than I. However, it is wrong that the act has to be a crime in the place where the incident occurs to be an offence under the legislation. Suppose, for example, the age of consent is lowered in Britain? The age of consent in Holland is very low. We have a different age of consent and should not condone a situation where people could travel from here to, say Holland to abuse children. That is why the last word on that line should be "or" instead of "and". It should be sufficient that the act be a crime in this country for the State to prosecute no matter where the crime is committed. There may be some technical reason why this cannot be done.

Section 4 makes the publication of information which is likely to promote, advocate, or incite the commission of an offence under the legislation an offence in itself. We should look at that as covering not just advertising but the promotion in any way of child pornography. It is possible to lock into pornography on the Internet now. It is available everywhere; it is now openly used in advertising in Dublin. We must examine this aspect as well.

We will be dealing with that in separate legislation.

I am delighted to hear that. The fines in this Bill are derisory and Senator Taylor-Quinn's point is valid. To allow a person to indulge in child prostitution, to abuse a child — I cannot find a stronger word than that — and then to fine them that amount of money is derisory. The fine should be much higher.

The debate so far has been very productive and thought provoking and the Minister's contribution, highighting the areas being tackled under the Irish Presidency and at international level, has been very informative. This legislation is needed. The need for it has been highlighted by Fr. Shay Cullen in the past and we thank him for doing that. I thank all those who participated in putting this Bill together, including the Government, Deputy Ryan, Deputy O'Donoghue and Senator Henry. All who showed an interest in highlighting this matter should be complimented. It is timely that we bring this Bill before the House today, on the 50th anniversary of the setting up of UNICEF.

I agree with the point made by Senator Lydon in relation to section 2. This legislation purports to make an action an offence where it would have been an offence within this State and an offence in the receiving country. I question whether that is necessary. I do not suggest that we put ourselves on a pedestal or that we have very progressive legislation but in many third world countries where basic human rights and women's rights are very badly provided for, children's rights are at the bottom of the pile. How many of those countries have strong provisions outlawing the types of sexual offence we are talking about? Is it necessary that section 2 requires an action to be an offence in the receiving country as well as here? If so, the effect of this legislation will be severely limited.

The other definitions are very broad and well phrased and I have no difficulty with them. They cover everything from attempted offences to those aiding and abetting the commission of the offences abroad. However, I do not see how we can prove an offence has been committed in the receiving country, particularly in the case of those who travel abroad privately, as would normally be the case. Many people do not advertise the reason they travel to a particular country. How effective will this legislation be in bringing to justice people in this country who go abroad for that purpose?

Under section 3 it is hoped to prosecute those who are involved in the business of making these commercial travel arrangements in these situations. Section 3 will be severely prohibitive for those in the travel agency business who facilitate this type of hideous crime. How effective can this legislation be in bringing to justice those who go abroad for the purpose of committing child sexual abuse? I understand we cannot say that because of difficulties of proof but we will do our utmost to stamp out these crimes. This legislation, regardless of how difficult it might be to enforce, makes a statement that the State does not condone the sexual abuse of children, whether in this country or abroad.

It is important that we do not forget that, for too long, we swept the issue of child sexual abuse under the carpet. For too long we put ourselves on a pedestal and said that did not happen here. We were prepared to point the finger at other countries where such horrors went on but we forgot to examine our own hearts and prosecute those within our own country who, we subsequently realised very publicly through the Fr. Brendan Smith case, are no different from anywhere else.

We must recognise and deal with the fact that we have paedophiles and that they are organised. That is why I particularly welcome that this legislation protects children within the State. It is very easy to say that other countries permit and facilitate this practice and that Irish men and women go abroad for that purpose but we must also recognise that it takes place under our very noses. For too long people were afraid to speak out about it or turned a blind eye to it, but out of evil comes good. The fact that the issue of paedophilia was raised in this country over the last number of years has allowed people who had suffered in silence for many years to speak at last knowing that they had a sympathetic ear at official level. For too long we said that could not be. It is fitting that this legislation should aim to protect children in this country as well as elsewhere.

The Bill imposes a penalty on those who commit offences under the legislation elsewhere. Has any study been carried out as to how effective this type of legislation is in countries where it has been in force for a number of years? Scandinavian countries have been very progressive in this area of legislation. Are there any statistics on how effective such legislation has been in obtaining prosecutions, which is what we are after in the long run?

Section 2 provides that an action must be an offence in both the sending and the receiving countries to be an offence under the legislation. That is a very onerous requirement and I do not agree with it.

Section 7 states that proceedings may be taken in any place in this State. How workable is that? I have no difficulty with the aim of the legislation but I have difficulty with its practicality. The legislation says that a prosecution may be taken anywhere in the country without reference to who is being accused or the jurisdiction that might go with it. I seek more clarification on that as it may pose difficulties in future and this legislation should be as effective as possible.

The legislation is comprehensive in terms of the balance providing in section 9 against double jeopardy. In the interests of justice and in accordance with public international law, it is important that someone not be open to prosecution in a number of countries when the case has already been dealt with, at least to an extent, in one of the countries involved.

Senators Taylor-Quinn and Lydon raised the issue of the level of punishment. I agree with them because this is an issue that incites much concern in the country and in this House, where the need for this type of legislation has been debated. Given the fact that so much of this type of crime goes undetected and that it is difficult to bring someone to court on offences such as this, it is not good enough that, when they are brought to court, they can walk away with a minor fine. It should be stated that there is no tolerance for child sexual abuse here and the best way to do that is to impose severe penalties. The departmental officials may say that penalties must be in line with punishments meted out for other sexual crimes but two wrongs do not make a right. The answer to that is that the penalties for all sexual abuse crimes must be increased. This provision is not good enough, particularly when it comes to the punishment of those who have committed an offence related to the publishing of information and those who have facilitated and organised transport and child sexual trafficking. In the long run, that will be the section that will be used most because it is the crime that is most easily detectable. Yet, after a summary conviction, the maximum fine is £1,500. That is peanuts to anyone in this business and will not be a deterrent. This must be strengthened.

During the debate the Minister of State referred to the Pornography Bill which he is soon to introduce. That is to be welcomed because much of the recent child sexual abuse has arisen, and been exacerbated, by the level of pornography in society. That cannot be tackled soon enough, and I welcome the Minister of State's efforts in that area.

We should remind ourselves that human nature does not change and we are no different from any other country. In Third World countries the level of protection for children is extremely low and in those countries poverty makes it almost a requirement for certain families to allow their children enter this trade. We should not find that excusable or acceptable in Ireland or elsewhere and there is a duty on us as legislators to ensure that what can be done is done to protect children here and abroad. In that sense I welcome the legislation.

How effective will this legislation be in detection? What will the Garda's role be in ascertaining the information necessary to bring a prosecution? That is vague in the legislation. There is also the huge harm that child sexual abuse has caused and continues to cause throughout the world. It is not enough to clap ourselves on the back and say that we have introduced all the legislation possible. Many children have suffered psychological and physical abuse from which they can never recover. That abuse goes from generation to generation affecting their relationships in subsequent years. Funding is required for proper counselling for those who suffer such abuse both here and abroad.

I recently visited to Calcutta to see the work of GOAL with street children there. GOAL brings them in for a break from their child prostitution activities and, in reality, it is the only way those children can survive. An effort was being made to rehabilitate them and help them out of that vicious circle with education. That work is invaluable and must be supported.

I welcome the Minister of State and the legislation. He mentions the spirit of co-operation that has brought the Bill before us today. I pay tribute to Deputies Eoin Ryan and John O'Donoghue and to Senator Henry who put so much effort into the Bills which were taken on board by the Government to arrive at a workable form.

If all our political deliberations had what was best for children as their cornerstone, we would have far better legislation and more of the type of Bill we have before us. Taking party political considerations into account, there would be common ground in any legislative debate if that was the starting point. That starting point is self-serving because protecting our children and allowing them to reach their potential is the only hope society has. Ignoring the rights of children and refusing them their rights is to risk social anarchy.

Prostitution is a form of slavery but child prostitution must be the worst form of slavery. Nobody in either House could support anything which would allow children to be exploited in the manner outlined by other speakers. The Minister of State mentioned that the reason this has not come to the top of the political agenda before is the naivete about the problem. He is right. For those of us considered normal, it is unbelievable and unconscionable to hear and read the stories and case histories brought before the Oireachtas on this subject. There is an attitude that it is better not to think of this but for those of us who are parents it is very difficult to consider those who would want to destroy young children by engaging in sexual activities with young boys and girls. That does not make sense for those of us considered normal. This is an area one would tend to shy away from even thinking about unless, as Senator Lydon said, it visits one's own doorstep. In that case one could easily imagine wanting to see the perpetrator of such a crime face the ultimate penalty. Senator Lydon mentioned tagging these criminals. There would be plenty of people, and I might be one, who would consider a far greater penalty for anyone who destroyed and defiled a young person in the way paedophiles and child sex abusers do.

As the Minister of State said, the cause of the problem is multifaceted. Poverty is one of the primary causes, although the Minister outlined others. However, I part company with him there. Demand is the cause of the problem. Many of the Asian countries mentioned by the Minister and others are very poor and children are exploited in sweat shops. We have child sex abuse because of demand. I agree with Senator Lydon, possibly for the first time, that this legislation is good as far as it goes. Pornography is exploitative and sends out the message that to behave in a certain way is acceptable. To take that to its illogical conclusion, people in this Chamber could argue that child sex abuse has its place in sexuality. The Minister mentioned that there is other legislation which will address the issues raised by Senator Lydon. However, demand is the issue. Programmes tackling drug abuse also state that there is a supply and demand problem. We must examine all areas to see how demand may be reduced.

I am delighted these issues are a focal point of Ireland's EU Presidency. The events of the summer put this issue in its rightful place at the top of the political agenda. This is something I welcome. We wonder, when we deal with legislation such as this, why we did not think of it ten or 20 years ago. Maybe, as the Minister stated, it is because of the naivete in many quarters about the nature and extent of such abuse. I was naive about the extent of it. The Minister stated:

A United Nations working group reported that child prostitution may involve millions of children. UNICEF estimated in 1994 that at least one million children were involved in child prostitution in Asia alone.

That figure is absolutely frightening. I wonder if it will make the headlines on tonight's Evening Herald. We tend to highlight the paedophile rings in Belgium and other countries. However, the level of child abuse mentioned in the Minister's speech is not related to paedophile rings. I attended a conference on child sex abuse during the summer and that point was repeatedly made by contributors. They stated that high profile cases with identified paedophile rings or groups gain huge media attention. However, ongoing child sex abuse by members of a family or by those who take sex holidays to Asian countries does not get the same coverage but accounts for 90 per cent of all child sex abuse. That must be made known and repeatedly stated.

There is a fear that this and other legislation deals with known groups of deviant people with a different sexual orientation. It must be repeatedly stated that 90 per cent of child sex abuse is committed by individuals travelling on sex tours to countries mentioned in the legislation. The figure of one million highlights this. It is good that the legislation targets the organisers of such sex tours or holidays as well as Irish citizens or residents who engage in unlawful sex. As Senator Lydon said, there have been cases where child prostitutes were arrested and jailed and the perpetrators got on a plane and went home. This legislation is good in that it addresses both sides: those who commit the crime and those who organise it. It will no longer be an excuse to pretend one was unaware of what was happening.

I agree with Senator Lydon that it may be necessary to change "and" to "or" in the definition because there is a loophole in it in so far as it requires the act to be an offence in Ireland and in the country where it is committed. Perhaps this was this discussed on Committee Stage in the other House?

Subsections 2(3) and 2(4) make it an offence to aid, abet, counsel or procure "the commission of an offence, which is an offence by virtue of subsection (1)". I welcome that. As with prostitution in Ireland, some people are not punished for this behaviour. We must tighten our laws in this regard. Senator Taylor-Quinn and Senator Lydon referred to the penalty and I support their remarks. If the cost of a child's innocence is the £1,500 penalty imposed, both Houses do the child a great disservice.

I ask for the Minister's advice on section 8. He says it is important because it enables the court to have regard to a person's physical appearance or attributes for the purposes of determining whether that person is under the age of 17 at the time of the court hearing or was under that age at the time of the alleged commission of an offence under section 2. The Minister cited the Australian legislation. Could this section also be used to avoid conviction? Could the person being charged suggest that the 14 year old looked anything but 14 and was viewed by him or her to have been older at the time? Could this section be a legal loophole? That is not intended but I am concerned that the legislation would be weakened if it were used in the opposite way to which it is intended.

The legislation is welcome. Senator Gallagher made a point about NGOs working in the countries where child prostitution is common. I read in a magazine about a similar programme where young girls of 13 or 14 are being taken out of their villages before they are sold into prostitution. They then learn skills and take part in training and personal development education programmes. They are shown at a certain stage what happens to their female relations who are taken to the cities supposedly to earn easy money as barmaids, etc. The point was made in the article that, whereas these programmes are successful, they cost money. In tandem with passing this legislation, we should also put our money where our mouth is and give as much support as possible to NGOs which are providing practical support to ensure that children do not end up in the situations which have been graphically described in this debate. I congratulate Deputies Ryan and O'Donoghue and Senator Henry. This is important legislation and perhaps we can strengthen it.

I welcome this important Bill which I believe every Senator will support. For the first time this Bill makes an effort to tackle child sex abuse outside Ireland. It is important that we try and control this well organised business. Organised rings of paedophiles are engaging in this horrific crime. We must renew our determination to introduce all necessary legislation to ensure that practice ceases.

Organised paedophilia has been exposed by many television programmes over the years. These programmes have shown how children as young as ten years old are introduced to prostitution. Poverty is given as one reason many of these children are forced into prostitution by their parents. We have a duty to ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes are tried, convicted and face long prison sentences.

These children suffer terrible degradation and so it is essential that we redouble our efforts to investigate and highlight these crimes. However, in the past we were complacent in the view that most child prostitution took place in Asia and Africa. Events in Belgium in August 1996 brought home to us that this problem is more widespread. Those events were among the most serious crimes I have ever come across. The tragedy was not only confined to the children involved. It was also a tragedy for their parents because they could not trust the police, the politicians or the judiciary. Every institution in which people normally have faith and trust breached that faith; that is why the Belgian paedophile ring was able to exist for so long. There was a cover up at police, political and judicial levels. It is sad that we, as members of the EU, should find ourselves with a fellow member involved in crimes against humanity. No sentence imposed on the perpetrators of those crimes could adequately convey the depth of public anger.

Ireland currently holds the Presidency of the EU and we must ensure that we take whatever measures are necessary to tighten the laws so that such crimes can never occur again. Regrettably crimes of this nature will occur here and there but we must make an effort to counteract the activities of those involved.

I do not believe Belgium is the only European country in which such crimes are being committed. It is likely that there are pockets of these well organised rings throughout Europe. We have a duty to ensure that such groups are subjected to thorough police investigations and convicted by the courts.

Over 1 million children are involved in child prostitution in Asia and Africa. The tragedy and human degradation which these young children suffer demands that those involved should pay the maximum penalty we can impose by law. I am pleased that we are making an effort to ensure that the perpetrators of such crimes are charged and convicted.

We have problems in Ireland. There are families in which children are being molested; there are problems in some of our homes and institutions which, hopefully, we have curtailed and we have children and young adults being attacked and raped. While people are anxious there should be the greatest latitude on the circulation of information we, in Europe, have to take a serious look at the tolerance displayed with regard to these videos and their sale. Many of the videos are of a very doubtful nature and may cause young men to commit sexual crimes. Many impressionable people who watch snuff videos do not cause problems but in some cases such videos lead to people to commit crimes. To safeguard society, stricter efforts must be made to control the circulation and stop the production and sale of these videos. If they are circulated by devious means, a special effort to has to be made to counteract their sale. Similarly a special effort is required to control the sale of magazines which outline and display serious pornography.

There is an obligation on television production managers and chief executives across Europe to examine the content of the programmes they air. I refer mainly to sexual matters that are beyond normal standards of behaviour. That should not be tolerated. We should introduce safeguards to prevent the circulation of such films on television and in cinemas. Overall we share a responsibility in this. The ordinary person who watches these films does not cause problems but there are many impressionable people who do. To go a stage further, an effort should be made to see how we can control violent crime on television where people are seriously injured, kicked, knifed, etc. It creates a bad impression for many young people and is responsible for many gang fights and for many individuals being attacked and mugged.

I am pleased this Bill has the Minister of State's support. It is worthy of the support of this House and I support it. I congratulate the people who introduced it.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to conclude what has been a short but nevertheless excellent and comprehensive debate. I apologise to some colleagues that I was unable to be here for their contributions but I undertake to read their speeches.

The unanimity we have seen today is a mark of the condemnation which every Member of the Oireachtas shows for this activity. It is not a surprise that Ireland did not have this legislation as this is an extra jurisdictional, extra territorial, concept which is being introduced into our law. I note that the Minister of State did not contradict this in his speech. This is first time the Oireachtas will be enacting legislation which, in effect, makes it a crime to commit a listed offence in a foreign jurisdiction if it is also an offence here. Another example might be treason. I imagine treason against the state in any part of the world would be a crime under Irish law but in general terms this is the first time the Oireachtas is giving extra jurisdictional authority. As was pointed out, Ireland is not the first country to do this. Several countries, particularly in this area have done so already. The concept of extra territorial jurisdiction has been enshrined in law in the United States for many years, particularly as far as kidnapping and racketeering are concerned. There is precedent for enshrining in law the concept of a crime being committed in a foreign land.

We had it in 1976.

I pay tribute to the speakers in this debate — Senators Henry, Gallagher, Lydon, McGennis, Taylor-Quinn and Enright. The Minister of State correctly pointed out that I omitted to mention the valuable work done by Senator Henry; it was not intentional. It is excellent that the Government agreed to essentially fuse both Bills through the committee framework. It makes sense. In the courts where two cases pertain to the same issue it is frequently the case that both will be heard together; I do not see why two Bills which deal with the same issue should not be taken together. This is what Karl Marx had in mind when he said there is a thesis, an antithesis and ultimately a synthesis.

If one is lucky.

I am not advocating Karl Marx nor is this Government a follower of his, although some sections of this Government once claimed they were.

This is not a question of credit for anybody but I find the fact that the Minister of State mentioned Senator Henry six times in his speech and the original proposers of the Bill only once is slightly regrettable and lacking in graciousness.

Did the Senator count the number of times they were mentioned in the other House?

Most importantly, we have a Bill which is supported by all. It is a short, pithy Bill and I strongly recommend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.