Monitoring and management of sex offenders strengthened through Bill announced by Minister McEntee
Notification requirements under Sex Offenders Register significantly tightened
New legislation allows for electronic monitoring of offenders
Gardaí will be able to release information on sex offenders in certain circumstances
10 November 2021
Planned new legislation to strengthen the management and monitoring of sex offenders in the community has been announced by the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD.
The Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill 2021 includes a number of amendments to the sex offenders register notification requirements, as well as providing for electronic tagging and for a prohibition on convicted sex offenders engaging in certain forms of employment.
While such bans on working with children or vulnerable people have been made by the Courts in the past, the Bill will now provide an explicit power for prohibition.
Announcing the Bill, Minister McEntee TD, said,
“I understand the concerns which communities can have about sex offenders and the protection of public safety and our citizens, and this legislation will help to alleviate those concerns.
“For example, it introduces stricter notification requirements - meaning offenders will have to inform the Gardaí of a change of address within three days instead of the current seven days.
“And the new law will also allow for electronic monitoring as well as fingerprinting and photographing of the offender, where necessary, to confirm their identity.
“Explicitly prohibiting convicted sex offenders from working with children or vulnerable people is also hugely important in protecting people and strengthening how we manage sex offenders.
“Tackling domestic, sexual and gender based violence and supporting victims of crime are priorities for me and my Department.
“I also want to reform the criminal justice system to make it more victim centred, and this Bill contains significant measures to help in that work.
The main features of the Bill are:
to change the sex offenders register notification requirements for sex offenders, including a reduction of the notification period from seven to three days;
to explicitly provide for the court to prohibit a sex offender from working with children and vulnerable adults;
to provide powers to the Garda Síochána to take fingerprints, palm-prints and photographs to confirm the identity of the person;
to create a legislative basis for the assessment and management of risk posed by sex offenders across teams involving probation officers, Gardaí and Tusla;
to allow the Garda Síochána to disclose information relating to persons on the sex offender register, in extenuating circumstances (for example, where there is a serious threat to public safety);
to allow the Garda Síochána to apply for the discharge and variation of a sex offender order;
to allow for electronic monitoring of sex offenders to assist in ensuring an offender’s compliance with a sex offender order or post release supervision order.
The Bill fulfils commitments in Justice Plan 2021 and in the Programme for Government to update the Sex Offenders Act 2001 to ensure that convicted sex offenders are effectively managed and monitored, and the publication of the Bill is an action in the Second National Strategy for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.
It also places the current Sex Offenders Risk and Assessment and Management (SORAM) monitoring process for high-risk offenders on a statutory footing.
Minister McEntee added,
“There is a robust system for monitoring sex offenders in place, but this legislation will significantly strengthen that system.
“It has been developed in close consultation with the Probation Service and An Garda Síochána to ensure that all of the provisions are well thought out and workable in practice.”
It is the Minister’s intention that this Bill will be enacted in the coming months.
Notes for editors
Number of Offenders subject to the Sex Offenders Act 2001
The latest figures available from An Garda Síochána are that there are 1,708 persons who are currently subject to the reporting requirements of Part 2 of the Sex Offenders Act 2001.
Included in that figure is a total of 319 sex offenders being supervised by the Probation Service in the community, and 192 are on post release supervision in the community by the Probation Service.
The remainder are notifying at Garda stations.
In addition to those currently subject to the reporting requirements, there are 433 people in custody convicted of a sex offence since 2001 who will be subject to reporting restrictions on release.
Placing SORAM and disclosure of information on a statutory basis
SORAM is Sex Offender Risk Assessment and Management. It involves the joint management of sex offenders by An Garda Síochána and the Probation Service with the involvement of the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) where there are child protection concerns and other agencies where necessary. SORAM currently operates on a non-statutory basis.
The Bill also provides a power to Gardaí to disclose information about a sex offender’s previous convictions to a member or members of the public where the offender poses a risk of causing harm.
The purpose of proposals relating to SORAM and the proposals on the disclosure of information relating to sex offenders, is specifically to provide a legislative underpinning to the current administrative processes.