Tuesday 11 July 2017
Today the Cabinet agreed to bring forward proposals to target repeat sexual offenders which would broadly reflect that proposed by Minister of State Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran in his Bill – the Criminal Justice (Commission of Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2017.  Cabinet also approved Minister Flanagan’s proposals to amend the gender anomaly with respect to incest.  Both issues will be contained in a Government Bill which Minister Flanagan will seek Cabinet approval for in the Autumn.
Speaking following the Government meeting, Minister Flanagan stated:
“Today Cabinet approved a number of proposals to strengthen the penalties for repeat sexual offenders and to amend existing incest laws.
“The major provisions with regard to the establishment of minimum mandatory sentences for repeat sexual offenders are based on the work of Minister of State Moran and I would like to acknowledge his commitment and dedication in working with my department to develop these proposals.  
“There are already provisions in place under the Criminal Justice Act 2007 to allow for minimum sentences to be imposed for certain repeat offenders and these new proposals will bring serious sex offenders within the scope of those provisions.  
“Today Cabinet also approved my proposals to bring forward measures to address a gender anomaly with respect to the penalties for incest.  I consider it appropriate that both issues could be addressed in a single Bill.  It is my intention to bring forward to Cabinet a General Scheme to make the necessary provisions in the Autumn."    
Note to Editors
Repeat Sexual Offenders
It is intended to bring forward provisions to provide for presumptive minimum mandatory sentences for repeat sexual offenders.  As a private member, Minister of State Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran introduced a Bill which would amend the Criminal Justice Act 2007 [“2007 Act”] to add a number of sexual offences to Schedule 2 of that Act.  Schedule 2 contains offences to which Part 3 of the 2007 Act applies.  Part 3 provides for particular sentencing arrangements for certain categories of offences.  
Section 25 of the 2007 Act provides that where an offender is convicted of an offence listed in Schedule 2 of the Act and is sentenced to imprisonment for a period of at least 5 years and is subsequently – within a period of 7 years – convicted of a further offence listed in Schedule 2, the court shall, when imposing sentence for that offence, specify the minimum term of imprisonment to be served by the person. The minimum period of imprisonment shall be three quarters of the maximum term of imprisonment prescribed by law in respect of such an offence and, where the maximum term is life imprisonment, the minimum shall be specified as a term of not less than 10 years.
New proposals to make the necessary amendments to the 2007 Act will be developed.  
Amendment to Incest laws
Under the Punishment of Incest Act 1908 incest by a male carries a sentence of up to life imprisonment whereas incest by a female carries a maximum sentence of 7 years imprisonment.  
Provision was included in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 to correct this difference in penalty and it was intended to increase the penalty for incest by a female to life imprisonment to replicate that for an offence by a male.  However, during the final report stage in Dáil Éireann, there were objections to increasing the penalty for incest by a female to life on the grounds of it being overly severe.
New proposals to correct the gender anomaly will now be advanced. 
Monitoring sex offenders in the community
Ensuring safe communities is a key responsibility of the Probation Service who monitor offenders following their release into the community.  As well as operating a range of modern risk assessment tools to assess the likelihood of reoffending behaviour by the sex offenders that they supervise, including being a key element of the Sex Offender Risk Assessment and Management (SORAM) structure along with An Garda Síochána, the Probation Service funds a number of different services aimed at providing support for convicted sex offenders in the community and reducing potential offending behaviour. 
These include the Sex Offender Resettlement Team (SORT) and PACE sex offender services. The SORT programme provides intensive one to one probation support and monitoring working closely with statutory and non-statutory partners in reintegration and risk management of sex offenders who are homeless on leaving custody. PACE is a community-based service funded by the Probation Service and operates three services for sex offenders under supervision who are classified as being medium to high risk of re-offending. These are the Foothold Floating Support Service which is a one to one support and reintegration service, the Safer Lives programme which is a rolling treatment programme focusing on good lives and relapse prevention and Circles of Support and Accountability Programme which seeks to support sex offenders who are isolated in the community. The person being supported is also held accountable for current and future behaviour and the model enables monitoring of risk by the local SORAM team.