The Government has agreed to impose lighter sentences for men convicted of incest because of a need to introduce equal sentences for women convicted of the same crime.
Ministers approved the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Amendment Bill which will introduce stricter penalties for repeat sexual offenders and equalise the maximum penalties for incest at 10 years for both male and female offenders.
This is to fix an anomaly that saw men subject to penalties of up to a life imprisonment but women would subject to a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.
Originally, on foot of efforts by Denis Naughten when he was an Independent TD in opposition, the Government sought to equalise the sentences at the maximum level of life in prison, but at report stage Dáil TDs voted that proposal down.
As a result, following discussions with the Attorney General Seamus Woulfe, it was decided to set the equal limit at 10 years.
The bill also contains amendments to the Punishment of Incest Act 1908 in order to equalise the penalty for incest at 10 years imprisonment for offences by both males and females.
The Government also approved revised penalties for repeat sexual offenders based on proposals brought forward by Minister of State Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran last year.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan got approval to pass emergency immigration legislation which arose out of a recent High Court case.
Approval was given to draft the heads of a bill “as early as possible” to amend the Immigration Acts 1999 and 2003 to address matters raised in the High Court case of SG (Albania) v the Minister for Justice and Equality which impacted on the deportation process.
“This matter is not finally settled in the High Court as a final order has not been made. Notwithstanding the outcome of that process, it is considered necessary to bring forward the enactment of the primary legislation with some urgency to remove any doubt about the legal basis under which the minister makes such orders,” the department said.
The legislation is required to deal with two categories of people being consideration for deportation.
Mr Flanagan also told Cabinet colleagues he is developing legislative proposals for a scheme for the expungement of criminal records arising from the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
The cases in question date from 1944 to 1993.
A preliminary search of Garda Pulse records suggest 150 relevant convictions require further examination.
Legal advice and precedent in England and Wales suggest that each case requires individual examination, the Government said.
Mr Flanagan has asked the gardaí to review the files and report on the availability and quality of them within three months. He will then update his cabinet collegues in the autumn.
Also at cabinet, Transport Minister Shane Ross requested the Government to note his plans to extend the Western Rail Corridor.
There will now be a fresh financial and economic appraisal of the Western Rail Corridor proposal.
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