18 sex offenders live close to school cluster

Eighteen registered sex offenders are living within walking distance of a cluster of schools near Cork City centre housing thousands of students.

18 sex offenders live close to school cluster

The offenders are living close to a cluster of primary and secondary schools in the Wellington Road area in Cork’s north inner city area.

The schools include primary and secondary schools such as Christian Brothers College, St Angela’s College, St Patrick’s, St Luke’s CoI, Scoil Mhuire, Bruce College, and Hewitt College.

Under the current legislation, school authorities and parents have no right to know that sex offenders are living in their area.

Christian Brothers College (CBC) administrator Tony McCarthy, who lives at Sydney Place, close to his 1,000-pupil school, said teachers were always on the lookout for anybody acting suspiciously in or around the school grounds.

“We’re obviously concerned about any dangers which might be lurking out there,” Mr McCarthy said.

“We’ve had a community garda who talks to the lads [pupils] about their safety. In the primary school virtually all the pupils are dropped to the gate, but we’re always on the lookout because we would be concerned about their safety anyway,” he said.

Fine Gael TD Denis Naughten has called on the Government to fast-track legislation to make it easier to monitor those on the register. He said a loophole exists where sex offenders only have to spend one in seven days at their nominated address.

“They can spend the other six days wherever they like. In the legislation I have drafted I want them resident at an address for a minimum of three days a week, like the law in the UK,” Mr Naughten said.

His bill, which the Government supported but stalled on adopting two years ago, would also allow for electronic tagging for high-risk offenders.

The prison service bought 50 tagging devices in anticipation of the bill being passed, but they remain unused.

“We also need the provision to allow gardaí to provide parents or school principals with details about any person who may pose a risk to children.

“Gardaí need the protection of law to be able to do this,” Mr Naughten said.

Senior Garda sources said they constantly monitor people on the sex offender’s register, especially those who are considered to be at high risk of re-offending and particularly if they live anywhere near schools in both the city and the county.

Gardaí in Cork were chosen for a pilot scheme, Soram, to monitor the activities of sex offenders. It resulted in a collaboration between the gardaí, prison service, probation service, HSE, and child protection agency Tusla and was so successful it was extended nationwide in 2013.

Before they leave prison, sex offenders are told they will have to provide a permanent address to gardaí within seven days of their release. They have to report this information to a Garda district headquarters (24-hour station) which is nearest to their address.

If they move, they have seven days to present in person to another Garda district headquarters closest to where they reside. A garda is assigned to monitor the movement of people on the sex offender’s register.

“Each is risk-assessed, depending on their type and level of offending and previous convictions. They are given ratings from low to high risk of re-offending and the status dictates how regularly they are visited in person by a garda.

“Person-to- person [garda to-sex-offender] contact at their accommodation is a very regular occurrence,” a Garda spokesman said.

“If there are concerns that a person may be hanging around a place they shouldn’t, such as a school, a chief superintendent can go to court and seek an order preventing them from being in the vicinity of that location,” the spokesman said.

“If they breach that order they can find themselves back in jail,” the spokesman added.

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