Thursday, 10 September 2020
Department of Justice and Equality
Sex Offenders Treatment Programme
I thank the Deputy for raising this important matter. I understand there can be concerns on the part of communities when it comes to the issue of rehabilitation of sex offenders and protection of public safety.
First it is important to note that there are already provisions in existing law in relation to the management of sex offenders after they have been released from prison.
The Sex Offenders Act 2001 provides that a Court can impose conditions on a convicted sex offender as part of their post-release supervision. Further, where An Garda Síochána believe that a convicted offender poses a serious risk to the public, an application can be made to the courts for a Sex Offender Order under s.16 of the 2001 Act. A Sex Offender Order can prohibit the offender from doing anything the Court considers necessary, in order to ensure that the public is protected from serious harm.
In terms of legislative reform, I can confirm that the General Scheme of the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill was developed by my Department following a comprehensive review of current law and administrative practice. The General Scheme was approved by Governmentin June 2018 and it is available on my Department’s website.
The Bill is currently with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting. My officials and that Office are working together to finalise the draft with a view to publication of the Bill as soon as possible.
The purpose of the Bill is to enhance current systems for assessment and management of convicted sex offenders and to put those systems on a statutory footing. While the drafting process is not yet complete, the main provisions are expected to include:
- Stricter notification requirements including requiring offenders to notify Gardaí of their address upon release from custody, or any subsequent change of address, within 3 days as opposed to the existing 7 days.
- Provision to allow for fingerprinting and photographing the offender, where necessary to confirm their identity.
- Enhanced supervision of high-risk offenders, including, in limited circumstances, the electronic monitoring of offenders subject to post-release supervision orders.
- The placing on a legislative footing of assessment teams to assess and manage the risk posed by sex offenders.
- Provisions whereby a court can prohibit a sex offender from working with children.
- Provision for a statutory basis for the necessary disclosure of information relating to a high-risk offender on the ‘sex offenders register’. The information in relation to an offender which may be disclosed include the name, address and threat posed by the offender. It is intended that the disclosure would only be made to the minimum number of people necessary to avert a serious risk to safety.