TOUGHERS laws are now in place for monitoring sex offenders in the community in Ireland.
They include new powers for police allowing them to disclose information about convicted sex offenders if there is a threat to public safety.
They also allow the courts to ban convicted sex offenders from working with children or vulnerable people.
Announced by the Department of Justice, the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Act 2023 “changes the notification requirements for sex offenders, provides for the court to prohibit a sex offender from working with children, and allows An Garda Síochána to disclose information relating to persons on the sex offender register where there is a serious risk to the public”.
Confirming the changes, which came into effect yesterday (November 13), Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee said: “These tough new laws will help us build stronger, safer communities and will strengthen our already robust system for monitoring sex offenders.”
She added: “The new laws will help alleviate understandable concerns which communities can have about sex offenders and the protection of public safety and our citizens.
“For example, it introduces stricter notification requirements, and gives powers to the court to explicitly prohibit convicted sex offenders from working with children or vulnerable people.
“This legislation gives An Garda Síochána and the Probation Service the tools to ensure sex offenders are managed effectively, striking an appropriate balance between monitoring and restricting offenders while also supporting them in their rehabilitation.”
The new laws reduce from seven to three days the period for sex offenders to inform Gardaí of their name and address after leaving prison.
It also reduces to three days the period for sex offenders to inform police of any change to their name or address or if they are going to be outside the State for more than three days.
Acknowledging public “concerns” around sex offenders living in their communities, Minister of State James Browne said: “We fully understand that communities have concerns about the release of sex offenders and while we do have strong monitoring provisions already in place, the stricter oversight and management requirements this important piece of legislation introduces, will provide extra reassurance.”
He added: “It introduces significantly stricter notification requirements for offenders, will allow for electronic monitoring in certain circumstances and will explicitly prohibit convicted sex offenders from working with children or vulnerable people.
“This legislation underlies the government’s shared commitment to keeping everyone in our communities, and in particular women and children, safe from sexual violence. “
Under the new laws Gardaí can take fingerprints, palm-prints and photographs to confirm the identity of a sex offender.
And in “extenuating circumstances", where there is a serious threat to public safety, it allows police officers to disclose information relating to people on the sex offender register.
The Department has also set up a working group to develop a plan to introduce the electronic monitoring of offenders.
The group is chaired by the Department of Justice and comprises representatives of the Courts Service, the Probation Service, the Irish Prison Service and An Garda Síochána.
“Its aim is to devise a pilot study and it is currently mapping out the operational matters for consideration which will be finalised by the end of this year,” the Department confirmed.