Tougher laws for sex offenders come into effect

Justice minister Helen McEntee (Brian Lawless/PA)
Justice minister Helen McEntee (Brian Lawless/PA)

Gardai will now be able to disclose information about sex offenders to others if there is a threat to public safety, as part of a range of laws which came into effect on Monday.

The Department of Justice said that “in extenuating circumstances”, the laws allow for An Garda Siochana to disclose information relating to people on the sex offender register.

It also places the current Sex Offender Risk Assessment and Management (SORAM) monitoring process for sex offenders on a statutory footing.

SORAM is the joint management process by gardai, the Child and Family Agency and the Probation Service where there are child protection concerns.

The department said rules around the sex offender register have been significantly tightened and courts are now able to specifically prohibit offenders from working with children.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said: “These tough new laws will help us build stronger, safer communities and will strengthen our already robust system for monitoring sex offenders.

“The new laws will help alleviate understandable concerns which communities can have about sex offenders and the protection of public safety and our citizens.”

She said the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Act 2023 gives SORAM the tools to ensure sex offenders are managed effectively, striking “an appropriate balance between monitoring and restricting offenders while also supporting them in their rehabilitation”.

The Act reduces the period for sex offenders to inform gardai about personal information updates such as a change of address, from seven to three days.

The laws also provide powers to An Garda Siochana to take fingerprints, palm-prints and photographs to confirm the identity of the person.

Minister of State James Browne said: “We fully understand that communities have concerns about the release of sex offenders and while we do have strong monitoring provisions already in place, the stricter oversight and management requirements this important piece of legislation introduces, will provide extra reassurance.

“It introduces significantly stricter notification requirements for offenders, will allow for electronic monitoring in certain circumstances and will explicitly prohibit convicted sex offenders from working with children or vulnerable people.

“This legislation underlies the government’s shared commitment to keeping everyone in our communities, and in particular women and children, safe from sexual violence. “

Meanwhile, a working group has been established to develop a draft plan for the electronic monitoring of offenders.

The group is chaired by the Department of Justice and is made up of representatives of the Courts Service, the Probation Service, the Irish Prison Service and An Garda Siochana.

Its aim is to devise a pilot study and it is currently mapping out the operational matters for consideration which will be finalised by the end of this year.