herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Predators who 'groom' children face 14 years jail

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald

Sexual predators who groom children on the internet will face up to 14 years in jail under new laws being published today.

And sex abusers who continue to harass their victims will be jailed for up to five years if prosecuted.

The sex offences legislation will also allow for electronic tagging for certain high-risk offenders who are subject to post-release supervision orders.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald's new legislation will also make it illegal to pay for sex - but prostitutes will not be criminalised.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill, 2014 is aimed at clamping down on sex abusers who use the internet to lure in their victims.

Technology

The move is aimed at soothing the fears of parents that their children are being stalked by sexual predators.

The legislation adds a range of provisions to make it a criminal offence to target children through technology and communications.

The bill says where an adult uses the web to contact a child "for the purpose of facilitating sexual exploitation", they can be jailed for up to 14 years.

Those who assist sex offenders to exploit a child can also be jailed for up to five years.

A specific offence of inviting a child to engage in sexual touching also carries a penalty of up to 14 years in prison.

The legislation allows for an harassment order to be imposed by the courts on offenders convicted of sexual offences, preventing contact with the victim or their family or friends.

The court can issue the harassment order on the request of a garda above the rank of inspector or a probation officer.

The measure is aimed at protecting victims from being contacted again by their abuser.

The penalty for contravening the harassment order will be a term in prison of up to a year on summary conviction.

But on conviction on indictment this rises to a fine of €10,000 or imprisonment for up to five years - or both.

In total, there are 62 different measures in the legislation.

Paying for a prostitute will be made illegal under the new laws approved by Cabinet this week.

But the proposed legislation will not criminalise the prostitute.

The proposed legislation will follow the Scandinavian example of penalising the 'buyer', but not the 'seller'.

Purchasing sexual services will be liable to a fine of €500 on the first offence and €1,000 for a subsequent conviction.

Knowingly purchasing sex from a trafficked person will be an offence carrying a penalty of up to five years in prison.

The legislation will allow sex offenders to be electronically tagged in exceptional circumstances.

The bill will result in a major expansion of the Irish Prison Service's capacity to roll out electronic tagging.

Under the proposals, probation officers attached to the prison service will make an application in court for a prisoner to be tagged.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland says sexual exploitation lies behind most human trafficking in Ireland, with a UN report identifying 132 victims.

The council has been calling on the Government to take immediate action to end the crime by "wrecking the business model for pimps and traffickers".

VICTIMS

A UN report covering 2010-2012, says 132 victims of trafficking for sex exploitation were identified in Ireland while 38 were identified for forced labour, 11 were for unknown exploitation and two for mixed exploitation.

Women and girls account for 140 of the trafficking victims found with men and boys accounting for 43.

Altogether 159 cases were investigated with 15 convictions secured in the courts by gardai.

The Council wanted Government support for legislation to introduce sex buyer laws to curb demand for prostitution and trafficking. It was also seeking a plan to tackle human trafficking.

hnews@herald.ie

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