New laws to jail sex predators who use the internet to groom children
Thirty children were found by gardaí being "sex-trafficked" around Ireland over the two years 2013-2014, the Dáil has been told.
Government TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy has warned that legal confusion must be swiftly ended to ensure so-called "child grooming" is eradicated in this country.
The Fine Gael TD was introducing her own draft law which would provide for a 14-year jail sentence for those found guilty of using the internet to lure children into sexual relations.
Warning about current "legal confusion," Ms Corcoran Kennedy said the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, had just a fortnight ago set a four-month deadline for the State to respond.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald published an outline of related legislation late last November and it is now proposed to merge some of the proposals from Ms Corcoran Kennedy to strengthen this.
"It is my hope we can quickly move to legislation and ensure there is no escape for those who want to prey upon children," the Laois-Offaly TD told the Dáil. But she warned that Government delay risked facilitating child abuse. She said she had been assured the legislation could be done in this Dáil term.
The TD's bill includes making it an offence to communicate with a child by any means, to gain the child's trust to engage in anything that would constitute sexual exploitation.
It will also be an offence to encourage, solicit, request, procure, entice or counsel a child to do any intimate act.
Government chief whip Paul Kehoe said the Government's bill will criminalise contacting children online or through technology like texting for sexual exploitation.
"The offence is targeted at the initial stages of grooming and does not require physical contact or meeting between the adult and child," Mr Kehoe told the Dáil. He added that the communication does not necessarily have to include sexual material.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins said delay on the Government's draft law was unacceptable.
He said the Oireachtas Justice Committee had received submissions which included warnings that young sex workers were very much in demand.
Sandra McLellan of Sinn Féin said the draft law must state that only An Garda Síochána can take part in sting operations against paedophiles.