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.