Sex predators will face jail terms of between 10 and 14 years for using the internet to groom minors or force them to share explicit images, under laws aimed at strengthening child protection.
The heads of the Sexual Offences Bill 2014 also proposes to strengthen the existing offence of meeting a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the new offences “reflect the reality that predatory sexual activity to target children can now take place online or via social media”.
For the first time, the purchasing of sex has been criminalised. Up to now, the prostitute was breaking the law but the pimp was not.
Sarah Benson of Ruhama, a group that has been calling for such a provision, said it is an important step in curbing the growth of prostitution “and holding the sex buyers to account for their key role in fuelling organised crime.”
The Immigrant Council of Ireland also welcomed the move.
The bill also contains measures to heighten the supervision of sex offenders upon release, including allowing gardaí to disclose names and addresses in the public interest.
The laws will also allow for the electronic tagging of sex offenders in limited circumstances.
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