In 2012, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter promised to introduce a law that would help protect our children against sex offenders, like all promises made by government this was one that slipped away into the background.
Ireland was promised the new legislation would be similar to Sarah’s Law which came in to effect in the UK in September 2008. The disclosure scheme was named after eight-year-old victim Sarah Payne, who was abducted and murdered in 2000. As a result of Sarah’s Law more than 700 paedophiles have been identified. Ireland has yet to introduce a similar Law despite continuous promises by Fine Gael.
Megan’s Law was introduced in the US in 2004 after seven year old Megan Kanka was raped and murdered. She had been living on the same street as a convicted sex offender. Mr Shatter’s proposed legislation will not go as far as Megan’s Law because it may bring harm to sex offenders if all their personal information is made public.
Serious concern has been raised in Ireland about the current system, which leaves sex offenders staying for weeks and months in hostels and temporary accommodation after they have been released. They are only required to check in to a garda station every seven days.
When we hear politician’s say the phrases, “in the process”, “on-going discussions”, “raising concerns”, we know we are no closer to these vital changes our country needs. Our country has always been behind in comparison to countries such as the US and the UK in matters to do with child protection.
Alan Shatter said; “His party plan to introduce electronic tagging for sex offenders within a year of taking office”, this statement was made in 2011, we are still no closer. Mr. Shatter claimed that despite almost 2,400 sexual offences being recorded last year, sex offenders are being released without rehabilitation and without regular supervision; he explained that this issue is a “matter of urgency”.
Fine Gael firmly believes tagging of sex offenders is the only way of monitoring the movements of convicted sex offenders on their release from prison. Despite all this talk and concern nothing has come close to what was promised.
Mr. Shatter has also said he believed Ireland should adopt provisions similar to Sarah’s Law, which was proposed by local TD Deputy Denis Naughten, this allows parents and guardian’s access to know if a child sex offender lives in their area. He has since contradicted himself and spoke about sex offenders human rights.
Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms were the reasons put forward as to why no progress has been made on this issue, but what about the human rights our children have?
The Child Sex Offenders Information and Monitoring Bill 2012 (ISCO) deals with sex offenders, this bill is not bringing us any closer to protecting our children; it heavily relies of Garda intelligence. The information regarding sex offenders in our areas will not be made public, parents can approach Garda and ask about certain individuals in their area that they feel pose a threat to their children, however the parent would have to prove a valid reason for the request for disclosure of such information. Gardaí can only provide information to the public in “exceptional circumstances”.
The Independent published a report on the in early 2014, stating that Alan Shatter is planning to house sex offenders in local areas; he believes they should be given homes by local authorities on their release from prison. Irish guards, the Irish Prison Service and the HSE all support the decision that sex offenders on release from prison should be accommodated in housing services rather than in emergency homeless accommodation.
So have we lost this battle?
Correct me if I’m wrong but there must be another way to protect our children!
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