Hayes says sex offenders' bill must address abuse by family members

Friday 11 October 2013 22.53
Proposed legislation would allow information on sex offenders to be made available to the parents of children and vulnerable adults
Proposed legislation would allow information on sex offenders to be made available to the parents of children and vulnerable adults

A proposed bill on a sex offenders register focuses on the "shadow behind the bush" but must also address "the risk of the footsteps on the stairs", Minister for State Brian Hayes has said.

The minister made the remarks as he addressed the Dáil during the second stage of a Private Members' Bill on monitoring sex offenders.

Mr Hayes said the bill must take steps to minimise all threats from strangers, but the reality is that in most cases sexual violence is likely to be from a family member.

While welcoming the proposed legislation by independent TD Denis Naughten, the minister warned that this should not lead to blanket disclosure of information on individuals.

Mr Hayes said the Government will not be opposing the bill at second stage and the minister for justice will shortly bring forward his own proposals on disclosure of information on sex offenders to the public.

Mr Naughten earlier told the Dáil there is one breach of the sex offenders register for every five offenders on it.

His proposed legislation would allow information on sex offenders to be made available to the parents of children and vulnerable adults who may be at risk.

He said change is needed in the way information on sex offenders is dealt with.

Mr Naughten said there are currently just over 1,300 people on the register and between 2004 and June of this year there have been 261 recorded breaches of conditions.

Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy said: "The Government must take strong measures to protect children from predators."

He said a report by the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection in 2007 proposed similar changes to laws to those in the bill being proposed today, but nothing was done.

Independent TD Finian McGrath welcomed the debate and suggested this issue be addressed in light of recent reports by the Rape Crisis Network and CARI, which highlighted in most cases offenders are relatives or acquaintances of children.

Speaking on behalf of Justice Minister Alan Shatter, Mr Hayes said the heads of the bill will be published before the end of the month.

He said there was "no foot-dragging" on the issue, which he said was a priority for the Government.

Mr Hayes said Minister Shatter had made "a firm commitment" to deal with the legislation.

He said once the scheme was accepted by the Government, the bill would be discussed at committee stage.