Bill seeks to address loophole in incest law

Friday 07 March 2014 17.06
The Government has said it is not opposing Denis Naughten's bill at this stage
The Government has said it is not opposing Denis Naughten's bill at this stage

Independent TD Denis Naughten has proposed a bill aimed at increasing the penalties for incest committed by women in line with the existing penalties for men.

The bill aims to close a loophole highlighted during the sentencing of a woman in Co Roscommon for the sexual abuse of her children in 2009.

Mr Naughten, who is a member of the Reform Alliance, said the late Judge Miriam Reynolds had raised the issue at the time, pointing out the maximum sentence for a man was life imprisonment, while for it was seven years for a woman.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said the Government was not opposing Mr Naughten's Criminal Incest Bill at this stage.

However, he said the Government was currently drafting the Sexual Offences Bill, which would deal with more wide-ranging reforms in the area.

The minister said the legislation would be published this year and he looked forward to seeing it enacted.

Mr Naughten also said legislation was needed to deal with the issue of the Sex Offenders Register, which allowed offenders seven days before they have to notify gardaí of a change of address.

Minister Shatter said the Sexual Offences Bill would also deal with this.

Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley said his party would support the legislation, but added that the State also had to put the legal framework in place with the Children First Bill.

Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis said sexual crimes remain under-reported and new, more effective systems were needed to ensure victims receive adequate support to proceed with prosecutions.

Independent TD Finian McGrath said victims should not be left hanging around.

Mr Shatter said children often knew their abuser and the State had to bring its legislative architecture up to date.

Mr Naugthen said he did not question the minister's bona fides on the issue and he looked forward to seeing the loophole closed.

He said he was impatient and knew that legislation was slow, but he said there were problems with the law as it stands.

On the issue of the Sex Offenders Register, Mr Naughten said 100 sex offenders are released from prison every year and based on statistics, around 5% would re-offend in three years.

He said he did not believe legislation in this area could wait another 12 months.

Emergency legislation was needed to avoid children being exposed to unnecessary risk, he added.

Bill targeting quad bikes debated

Sinn Féin transport spokesperson Dessie Ellis introduced a private members bill aimed at empowering gardaí to deal with the misuse of vehicles.

The Misuse of Motor Vehicles (Public Spaces) Bill 2012 deals with quad bikes and dirt bikes in public parks and greens in particular.

He said the vehicles are very noisy and used by young men with "reckless abandon" in working-class areas.

They tear up soil, and destroy pathways and other public amenities, he said.

Minister of State Tom Hayes said that the safety of the public is a primary concern to Government.

He set out the actions and systems that are already in place for dealing with the problem, adding that the misuse of vehicles is a matter for the gardaí.

He said: "It is the view of the gardaí that current legislation adequately provides for investigation of offences connected with the use of mechanically propelled vehicles under the Road Traffic Act."