Latest: Govt agrees proposal to introduce electronic tagging for sex offenders

Charlie Flanagan

Update 9pm: Schools and neighbours will be told the name, address and identity of “high risk” sex offender ex-prisoners living in their area who remain a public threat under controversial new US-style name and shame laws.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Communications Minister Denis Naughten confirmed the draft plan after cabinet on Wednesday as part of a series of new measures aiming to ensure the public's safety.

Under existing rules, gardai are only allowed to tell concerned citizens if a registered sex offender is generally in their area if the information is requested by an individual.

However, if draft amendments to the Sex Offenders Act 2001 are passed by the Oireachtas, officers will now be given the right to proactively tell people the name, address and identity of an registered sex offender – if gardai believe they remain a threat to the public.

A Department of Justice spokesperson said the move will be targeted specifically at serious sex offenders who have left prison and will only be used in extremely rare circumstances.

She said the information will only be given “to the minimum number of people necessary to avert any risk”, confirming this will include schools and nearby neighbours, and when all other options have failed.

The mooted name and shame sex offenders plan is similar to the Sarah's Law and Megan's Law rules in the US and UK which allow the people to find out the identity of a registered sex offender if they are living in their area.

However, the decision to seek the new laws is likely to lead to support and criticism in equal measure, with victims and families expected to welcome the increased transparency and civil rights groups raise concerns over the potential for vigilanteeism it could cause.

The name and shame plan is part of a series of other measures which include plans to make sex offenders sign in with gardai every three days instead of every seven after leaving jail, and provide fingerprints and photographic ID to confirm their identity.

As revealed in Wednesday's Irish Examiner, in cases where former prisoners are believed to be at risk of re-offending, gardai will also have the right to force them to wear electronic trackers.

The latter move has been heralded as a way to constantly monitor registered sex offenders' movements.

However, speaking on RTE Radio's Today with Sean O'Rourke programme after it was noted a similar UK project cost €130m over five years, Communications Minister Denis Naughten admitted the trackers may only be monitored sparingly for cost reasons.

There are issues in relation to that, the practicalities of it. It'd very much be used as a deterrent.

'We actually will have a sex offenders register,' says Denis Naughten

Update 11.44am: Independent TD, Denis Naughten, has said that the Government is considering new measures, including electronic tagging, to tighten restrictions on sex offenders after they are released from prison.

Mr Naughten was on Today with Richard Curran on RTÉ Radio 1 to discuss new proposals being considered to electronically tag sex offenders after their release.

He told Richard Curran that the tag would be dependent on the risks that they pose on the community, saying that every sex offender will have to register with gardaí within 3 days of their release from jail.

That compares to what was initially in place, seven days.

He also said sex offenders must be photographed, finger printed and provide any change of address and basic details.

He said: "On foot of the enactment of this legislation we actually will have a sex offenders register, presently that is there in name only."

The Irish prison service have 50 tags available to them at the moment to be used on high-risk sex offenders.

He also spoke of issues relating to the practicalities surrounding the length of time that they can be tagged for, saying: "All of this will be teased out with the passing of the legislation itself."

- Digital Desk

8.54am: Rapists may be electronically tagged after release from prison

By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith

Rapists and other serious sex offenders released from prison may be electronically tagged in an attempt to prevent further attacks under Government plans set to be revealed today.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan will announce the fresh attempt to clamp down on the crimes today, as part of measures focused on prisoners after they are released from jail.

Under plans due to be discussed at cabinet this morning, Mr Flanagan will say there is a need to consider giving judges new powers to protect the public and to monitor people convicted of serious crimes.

And among the series of measures will be a request to allow judges to sign off on “electronic monitoring for sex offenders” who have already completed jail sentences if officials have fears they are likely to commit further offences.

Sources said the move is in its draft early stages, must still be examined by the Oireachtas justice committee and “is only one of a very wide range of additional measures” focused on former prisoners.

However, any decision to further protect the public from the threat of serious sex offenders is likely to be welcomed if a coherent approach for how it can be introduced is provided.

The electronic tagging move is part of a fresh attempt by the Government to increase protections for the public from serious sex offenders a year after a previous bid suffered a series of legislative delays and three years after the need for the action was first raised.

In response to Communications Minister Denis Naughten’s call for electronic tagging of sex offenders in 2017, then justice minister Frances Fitzgerald sought to introduce a version of the plan last year.

However, while the move was backed by rival parties and expert groups last year, concerns over the cost of the measure compared to the relatively small number of people who would be tagged led to a number of questions being raised over the proposal.

Among the other draft plans due to be announced by Mr Flanagan today are likely to be other increased penalties for ex-prisoners who have been released from jail.

Electronic tagging is used in rare circumstances by the Irish Prison Service to monitor people who have been granted temporary released from jail to attend hospital and other valid reasons.

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