Sex offenders "need to be tagged" say charities
A PROPOSED law to introduce electronic tagging and other measures to beef up the post-release supervision of convicted sex offenders is long overdue, according to victims groups.
Maeve Lewis, executive director of One in Four, welcomed proposed amendments to the Sex Offenders Act 2001 that are being drafted by the Department of Justice and are expected to become law by early next year.
They would see the introduction of electronic tagging, as well as more stringent notification requirements and risk assessments for offenders.
Gardai will also be given the power to disclose information “in extenuating circumstances” about people on the Sex Offenders Register.
The bill, which is expected before the Dail later this year, would also allow the courts to prohibit sex offenders from working with children.
One in Four, which provides counselling for victims of sex crimes, as well as offering the State’s only community-based adult sex offenders treatment programme, said the rampedup measures are much needed.
“Compared to Northern Ireland, the level of supervision here is very low due to resources,” Ms Lewis told the Herald.
Currently, once a person is convicted of a sexual offence, they are required to be included on the Sex Offenders Register, which is forwarded to the gardai’s Domestic Violence and Sex Assault Unit.
Details are then given to the local garda station where the offender is living to enable gardai to make regular checks.
The courts can also order a period of post-release supervision as part of the offender’s sentence, in which probation officers liaise with gardai to ensure that release conditions – such as counselling or being prohibited from being within a certain distance of schools or playgrounds – are followed.
Failure to abide by the conditions could result in the offender being imprisoned for up to a year or fined a maximum of €2,500 or both.
Ms Lewis said, however, the measures currently in place here are simply inadequate.
“The imposition of a supervision order is now up to a judge, but it should be mandatory,” she said.
By comparison, sex offenders deemed to pose a medium to high risk of re-offending in the North are automatically visited each week by probation officers, she said.
There is also better support from various government agencies in Northern Ireland to ensure sex offenders are appropriately housed.
Here, the release of a known sex offender into the community without supports can drive them underground and make them even more dangerous and likely to re-offend, said Ms Lewis.
Noeline Blackwell, CEO of Dublin’s Rape Crisis Centre, said tougher supervision rules would make victims feel safer, while protecting future victims.
“The more sex offenders are properly managed in the community and given adequate and proper supervision, the better it is for society and victims,” she said.