Dáil Éireann - Volume 636 - 25 April, 2007
Written Answers. - Sexual Offences.
Dr. Fitzpatrick Dr. Fitzpatrick
Dr. Fitzpatrick asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the provisions in place to ensure all sex offenders living in the State are on the Sex Offenders  Register even though they may not have been charged or prosecuted in the State; the overall action he has taken to protect citizens from predatory sex offenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15509/07]
Mr. McDowell Mr. McDowell
Mr. McDowell: The Sex Offenders Act, 2001 sets out the obligations on persons convicted of a range of sexual offences. A convicted sex offender must notify his/her name(s), date of birth and current home address to the Garda Síochána within seven days of the conviction for the sexual offence concerned or, where the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, from the date of full release from prison.
Thereafter, the offender must notify the Gardaí of any change of name or address within seven days of that change. Notification of any address where the offender spends either as much as seven days or two or more periods amounting to seven days in any twelve month period must also be given to the Gardaí. If the offender intends to leave the State for a period of seven days or more s/he must inform the Gardaí of this fact and the address at which s/he intends to stay and also notify the Gardaí of his/her return. If s/he did not intend to stay away for more than seven days but did, s/he must inform the Gardaí within a further seven days.
The provisions of the Act extend to any sex offenders entering this jurisdiction from abroad who have an obligation to register in their own countries. Section 13 of the Act provides that a person convicted outside the State of an offence that would constitute an offence in this jurisdiction for which the person would be subject to the notification requirements of the Act and who enters the State, must comply with these requirements within seven days. The Act makes it mandatory for a convicted sex offender to inform their employer or future employer of their conviction if their job entails having unsupervised access to children. The Act also allows for a Chief Superintendent of An Garda Síochána to request the court to make a sex offender order, whereby a sex offender can be prohibited from behaving in a particular way, where such behaviour is perceived by the court as having a potential danger to the welfare of children. It should be noted that Garda clearance is now required for potential employees in a number of occupations which entail access to, or authority over, children.
The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit of An Garda Síochána monitor and manage the notification provisions. There are nominated Garda Inspectors in each Garda Division who have responsibility for the monitoring of persons subject to the requirements of the Act in their Division. As soon as the Domestic Violence and Assault Investigation Unit is  advised by a relevant authority, such as the Irish Prison Service, the Courts Service or a foreign law enforcement agency, of the impending release or movement of sex offenders into their area this information is immediately passed to the nominated Inspectors, who are advised of information relevant to their Division. Any child protection issues arising are advised to the relevant health services authorities, as provided for under the Children First guidelines.
There is a very good co-operation in the sharing of information between An Garda Síochána and other law enforcement agencies. Last November I signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Ireland and the UK to assist in the sharing of information on sex offenders. The MoU is part of the work undertaken following the Intergovernmental Agreement on North/South Co-operation on Criminal Justice Matters signed on behalf of the Irish and British Governments in July 2005. In addition, under the Agreement, a Registered Sex Offender Advisory Group has been established consisting of representatives of An Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, my Department and the Northern Ireland Office. As part of its work, this Group evaluates the potential for sharing information, examining the registration criteria in both jurisdictions for sex offenders and identifying areas for further co-operation.
Based on five years experience in the operation of the Act, I am proposing a series of changes to the Act with the aim of strengthening the protection it offers to the community. These will include raising the penalty for failure to register from 12 months to five years imprisonment, thus making it an arrestable offence, and giving probation officers power to prosecute offenders who fail to comply with the terms of a post release supervision order.
Dáil Éireann 636 Written Answers. Sexual Offences.