27 November 2014
RCNI strongly welcome the release of the General Scheme of the forthcoming Criminal Law (Sexual Offices) Bill and commend Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald for bringing this substantial and significant piece of legislation before us.
Cliona Saidlear, RCNI Acting Director said, ‘This long awaited legislation is one of the most important advances in the legal framework around sexual violence crimes in recent years. RCNI would also like to recognise the work of previous Ministers for Justice, the significant effort by Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence over several years, and the work of members of Oireachtas Committees who have contributed to the legislation’s development over recent years. This legislation truly is a product of the Oireachtas as a whole and we look forward to contributing our perspectives on it, as members of the Oireachtas give this legislation their consideration on its progression into law.
Caroline Counihan, RCNI Legal Director said, ‘we are constantly reminded through our clinical work of the devastation caused to children by sexual violence. A large part of this violence begins with “grooming” behaviours, which do not always fit in to the existing categories of offences. Therefore, we have been advocating for years for laws that fit the realities of today’s childhood. The introduction of a new offence of grooming of children including grooming via social media and otherwise through the use of information technology is very welcome.
‘In addition, RCNI is very glad to see the new provisions tightening the law in relation to the monitoring and supervision of sex offenders on release from prison and placing the risk assessment of these offenders on a statutory footing. Our hope is that these measures taken together will do much to help reduce the impacts of release not only on these offenders’ victims but also on the wider community.
‘Finally, RCNI welcomes the introduction of a statutory regime to regulate disclosure of counselling records relating to victims, in criminal proceedings, for which we and our partners have also advocated for years. This means that a judge will decide whether and/or to what extent, any disclosure of such documents will be allowed, and in doing so, s/he will take into account the right of the victim to protection from further harm and the public interest in preserving the confidentiality of such intimate and personal records, as well as the right of the accused to a fair trial.
RCNI looks forward to examining this complex General Scheme in more detail and to producing a full measured response to it in the near future’
Also please see www.rcni.ie under publications and submission for a range of RCNI documentation which contributed to the contents of this Bill