The Government is planning new legislation that it says is aimed at strengthening the management and monitoring of sex offenders in the community.
The new bill will provide for the electronic tagging of sex offenders, and will also explicitly allow the courts to prohibit a convicted offender from certain types of employment.
The Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill 2021 also includes stricter rules on notifications linked to the register of sex offenders.
Change of address
The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee (pictured) said that offenders would now have to inform the gardaí of a change of address within three days, instead of the current seven days.
She added that the new law would also allow for electronic monitoring, as well as fingerprinting and photographing of offenders, where necessary, to confirm their identity.
Electronic monitoring would apply to convicted sex offenders who are subject to a post-release supervision order, or a sex-offender order that includes a condition restricting the offender’s movement.
Monitoring is already provided for in legislation for those subject to bail and restriction-of-movement orders imposed in respect of certain offences, but neither of these provisions have been commenced.
Electronic-monitoring provisions for the temporary release of prisoners have been started, and are used in limited circumstances by the Irish Prison Service.
Among other provisions, the bill would create a legislative basis for the assessment and management of risk posed by sex offenders, across teams involving probation officers, gardaí, and Tusla.
It would also allow the gardaí to disclose information about people on the sex-offender register in extenuating circumstances – for example, where there is a serious threat to public safety.
DRCC warns on resources
Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) has welcomed the proposed changes, but has also warned that much depends on the resources provided to implement the measures.
DRCC CEO Noeline Blackwell described the bill as “another part of the necessary fabric of protection for actual and potential victims of sexual offences”.
The management of sex offenders in their community after release from prison is a complex matter, she said.
“Many offenders are known in their communities, and may even be family members of the victim. Any new legislation in this area must aim to reduce the risk of new offences, including by monitoring those deemed to be at risk of such re-offending,” she stated.
On resources, the DRCC pointed out that electronic tagging depended not only on acquiring tags, but having a substantial support service to monitor those wearing them – and having gardaí available to find an offender who breached a condition.
“Similarly, resources will be needed for effective IT to maintain the change of address register and ID details, and to permit the cross-agency working in an effective way,” the organisation said.