Friday 28 April 2017

Influx of high-profile convicts prompted law update

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

WHEN British tabloids pursued a name-and-shame campaign 10 years ago against certain high-profile rapists, coverage of which led to violent protests and episodes of vigilantism, it provoked an exodus of high-risk offenders to Ireland.

Gardai were forced to increase surveillance at ports and airports after receiving tip-offs from British police that paedophiles from their areas were heading across the Irish Sea.

At the time Ireland, unlike Britain, had no sex offenders register.

We still don't: the only information on the whereabouts of sex offenders in Ireland which is held centrally by the gardai is a certificate issued by the courts in relation to those convicted of sexual offences.

The widely used term sex offenders register is a misnomer, but the Sex Offenders Act 2001, which came into force in Ireland in June 2001 did significantly alter the law.

Now those who are convicted of certain sexual offences are obliged to provide certain information to the gardai including the address at which they are living following their release from prison and can be subject to post-release supervision orders.

The migration of British sex offenders to Ireland became a major concern for the public when it was revealed, during the 2005 garda search for missing Cork schoolboy Robert Holohan, that there were 36 convicted sex offenders living the area of east Cork alone, some of whom were British.

Holohan's killer was later discovered to be his neighbour Wayne O'Donoghue.

Revelations

But the revelations that so many sex offenders, the majority of whom were not subject to any garda supervision, were coming to Ireland outraged parents who were angry that such a concentration of rapists were living in their area.

Irish and British treatment of sex offenders differs in many respects.

In Britain, since 2005 offenders, including some sex offenders, can receive an indeterminate sentence if it is deemed necessary for public protection.

In Ireland, high-risk prisoners can not be detained for public safety purposes once they have completed their fixed term.

In Britain, post conviction/ release offenders can be electronically tagged.

In Ireland, this form of electronic monitoring can only be used pre-trial for people suspected of committing serious crimes who are released on bail.

Some offenders can also be electronically tagged in lieu of a custodial sentence.

To electronically monitor a person beyond the duration of a prison sentence is to impose an additional punishment, according to many human rights experts.

Irish Independent

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