44. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, known as the Lanzarote Convention, is to be ratified in view of the fact that Ireland is an outlier among European states in its failure to ratify the convention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11878/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Deputy may recall that I recently outlined the position in relation to ratification of two important Council of Europe Conventions, including the Lanzarote Convention, when the matter was raised under topical issues on 16 January. At that time I updated the House on the significant progress made in the ratification process within the term of this Administration, particularly through the introduction of legislation to give effect to the key criminal law provisions of this Convention.
The work to ratify the Convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, also known as the Lanzarote Convention, is at an advanced stage. I want to assure the Deputy that Ireland’s laws are fully in line with the Convention. This was largely achieved by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, which was a ground-breaking piece of legislation. It brought in a new offence of accessing child pornography online. It also criminalised grooming behaviour, such as communicating with a child online for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Even prior to this Act, our legislation on child pornography included images of a person generated or modified by computer-graphics. This legislation ensures the State’s compliance with criminal law provisions in the Lanzarote Convention.
In relation to other elements of the Convention, my Department has carried out a detailed review of compliance, in consultation with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and other relevant stakeholders, such as the Garda Síochána and Health Service Executive. Information was sought regarding the child protection, prevention and victim support aspects of the Convention. This concerns the operational, rather than legislative aspects of the Convention. While the Department now has most of the information required for ratification, some stakeholder work is still required to ensure that Ireland is fully compliant in all areas of the Convention. Once that work has been completed, and the Office of the Attorney General has been consulted, steps towards formal ratification can be taken.