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Monday 22 September 2014

Callinan to liaise on 'Sarah's Law'

Published 11/10/2013 | 14:41

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Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan is to help draft rules on how the force can give the public information on sex offenders

The Garda Commissioner is to help draft rules on how gardai can use a version of Sarah's Law to give the public information on sex offenders.

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The Government will publish new legislation in a matter of weeks giving parents or guardians the right to detail on paedophiles in their area.

The radical reform will see commissioner Martin Callinan liaise with the Department of Justice on how and when gardai should release sensitive information.

Junior minister Brian Hayes, addressing the issue during a Dail debate, said the forthcoming Sexual Offences Bill will give a statutory basis for disclosure, where appropriate.

"I should emphasise that the disclosure of information is not an end in itself. What is important is what action we take on the basis of information," he said.

"We do not want to cause any unnecessary distress or alarm to parents nor do we want to encourage vigilantism."

Denis Naughten TD, part of the Reform Alliance group, had asked the Government to adopt legislation he prepared to put Sarah's Law on a statutory footing.

Named after eight-year-old Sarah Payne, who was abducted and murdered by a sex offender in England in 2000, the system allows the release of information on paedophiles and has been adopted by all police forces in Britain.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said gardai will be given regulations and guidelines on the release of sensitive information on child abusers or suspected offenders.

Mr Hayes, speaking on behalf of Mr Shatter during debate on the issue, said there should be concern about abuse taking place within a family as well as about so-called stranger danger.

"My concern is that the dominance in the discourse of the risk posed by a shadow behind a bush, instead of the footstep on the stairs, can divert our attention from the greatest likelihood of danger to children and may make it more difficult for children to report abuse by those they trust and depend on most," he said.

The Department of Justice released information on the number of convicted sex offenders in custody and re-offending rates.

There are 344 sex offenders in prison, 103 will be released this year, including 78 already set free this year, and 99 next year, it said.

The department said recent figures show an average recidivism rate of 62.3% within three years for prisoners but it falls to less than 5% for sex offenders.

It also said 38 of the 99 offenders due for release in 2014 will be subject to Post Release Supervision Orders imposed by the courts.

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