Sex Offenders Register 'nothing but a fig leaf' as Dáil hears of monitoring 'loopholes'

Sex Offenders Register 'nothing but a fig leaf' as Dáil hears of monitoring 'loopholes'

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee "understands the concern which communities can have with regard to the issue of rehabilitation of sex offenders and the protection of public safety and our citizens." Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Lax monitoring of convicted sex offenders is putting women and children in danger, the Dáil has heard.

Calls have been made to tighten the "gaping loopholes" in the monitoring of high-risk sex offenders.

Raising the issue, Denis Naughten said the current laws mean "the balance is entirely in the hands of the perpetrator at present".

"The reality is that one could drive a coach and four through the so-called sex offenders register we have here. It is nothing but a fig leaf. Any sexual predator who is determined to re-offend can easily do so undetected and still comply with the current law."

Mr Naughten told the Dáil only one in 10 sexual offences are reported and about one in 20 secure a conviction. Half of these convictions involve children.

"Therefore, even an effectively-operating sex offender monitoring regime will not address the total concerns of parents.

"However the current system of keeping track of sex offenders' locations is just not working. As a consequence of these very lax monitoring conditions, women and children are put at grossly unacceptable risk from those who are determined to re-offend."

Mr Naughten said it had been agreed that gardaí should be given more powers to effectively and efficiently monitor released sex offenders as far back as 2009 but these have yet to come into force.

Responding, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said: "I understand the concern which communities can have with regard to the issue of rehabilitation of sex offenders and the protection of public safety and our citizens."

Calling for updated legislation, Mr Naughten said: "Due to the lack of progress, in 2012 I published the Child Sex Offenders (Information and Monitoring) Bill 2012 to close the gaping loopholes in the monitoring of high-risk sex offenders.

"Since I published that Bill to reform the monitoring of sex offenders in 2012, some 800 sex offenders have been released from prison, some of whom may have been stopped from re-offending if the laws had been reformed.

Ms McEntee said new legislation is currently being drafted but admitted that the Bill "has been with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for some time now so I have asked for an update on the expected timeline as it is something I would like to progress as soon as possible".

Ms McEntee said the Bill would introduce stricter notification requirements meaning offenders would have to inform the gardaí of a change of address within three days instead of the current seven days.

The new laws would also allow for electronic monitoring as well as fingerprinting and photographing of the offender, where necessary, to confirm their identity.

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