The Government has published a bill to increase the penalties for the sexual exploitation of children and vulnerable people, and strengthen the laws on prostitution.

The Criminal Law Sexual Offences Bill will also make it easier for gardaí to monitor sex offenders in the community.

The new bill tackles child abuse online in relation to the use of information and technology to facilitate the abuse of children.

It also creates new offences in relation to the organisation of child prostitution and the production of child abuse images.

The bill allows for jail sentences upon conviction of up to 14 years in prison.

It also tackles prostitution by criminalising the clients, making it an offence to purchase sexual services.

Those who are convicted can be fined, but those convicted of paying for sex with a trafficked victim could face up to five years in jail.

The bill also includes increased garda powers in relation to the monitoring of sex offenders in the community.

The sex offenders will have three days to register and must allow their photographs and fingerprints to be taken.

They face up to five years in prison for non-compliance.

The bill also allows senior garda members to disclose in certain circumstances the names, addresses and levels of risk associated with convicted sex offenders.

It maintains the age of consent at 17 but it also allows for a defence.

It also allows for a defence in cases where children between the ages of 15 and 17 have been involved in sexual relations with each other.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said the bill "provides for wide ranging reform of our laws, including stronger sanctions, aimed at protecting children from sexual exploitation; child pornography and online grooming".

In a statement, she said the bill will provide "for a more effective response to sexual offending within our criminal justice system".