Schools and neighbours will be told the name and address of “high-risk” sex offenders who are living in their area and pose a threat after being released from prison.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Communications Minister Denis Naughten announced the draft plan yesterday as part of a series of new measures aimed at ensuring public safety.
Under existing laws, gardaí are not allowed to tell concerned citizens if a registered sex offender is generally in their area.
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 and address of a registered sex offender, if gardaí believe they remain a threat to the public.
A Department of Justice spokesperson said last night 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 plan is similar to Sarah’s Law and Megan’s Law in the UK and US, respectively, which allow people to find out the identity of a registered sex offender if they are living in their area.
The decision 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 likely to raise concerns over the increased potential for vigilantism.
The plan is part of a series of measures which include plans to make sex offenders sign in with gardaí every three days, instead of every seven days, after leaving jail, and provide fingerprints and photographic ID to confirm their identity.
In cases where former prisoners are believed to be at risk of re-offending, gardaí will also have the right to force them to wear electronic trackers.
This will allow monitoring of registered sex offenders’ movements.
However, speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme after it was noted a similar UK project cost €130m over five years, Mr 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.”
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