Maureen O'Sullivan TD for Dublin Central is introducing a Private Members Bill aimed at restricting the movements of convicted sex offenders from travelling abroad and engaging in child sex tourism.
Addressing the Oireachtas Justice Committee this morning on her Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill 2018, Ms O'Sullivan said that a recent report by Ending Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT) International said that child sex tourism had drastically increased.
“The promotion of tourism in these poorer countries for economic growth is bringing more and more westerners to places in which there is little or no regulation or policing but more and more children available for sex,” she said.
The deputy said the abuse occurs in countries such as India and many in South-East Asia, Latin America, South America, the Caribbean and Africa.
She said the impetus for her bill came from meetings with Irish priest, Fr. Shay Cullen, who is directly involved in rescuing children from the sex tourism industry in the Philippines and supporting children affected by it.
Ms O'Sullivan said it was “tricky” to legislate in this area because of the constitutional right to travel in Ireland.
“The purpose of the Bill is to regulate and restrict, where appropriate, sex offenders from travelling abroad in the interests of the common good and to protect persons from serious harm outside the State,” she said.
“It seeks to do that by increasing the powers of judges so it is not an outright ban on travelling.”
She said the bill relates to those convicted of child abuse - physical acts of abuse with children, using child pornography films, child abuse images/recordings on their phones.
“It recognises the constitutional right to travel but also the need to protect children abroad,” she said.
She said restriction provisions would be decided on a case by case basis by a judge who will weigh up the issues.
“There is a lot of constitutional protection; the convicted person is heard and represented,” she said.
She added: “In conclusion: it is a small step but a clear signal that Ireland, and we would be the first country in Europe to do so, does not want its child offenders to be in a position to offend in other countries where child abuse is happening with impunity.”
Committee chair Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin expressed the committee's appreciation for Ms O'Sullivan's efforts in producing the bill.
The bill is being currently discussed at the committee, together with pre-legislative scrutiny of the general scheme of the Government’s proposed Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill.