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Thursday 24 May 2018

Laws will jail sex offenders who harass their victims after release

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Robin Schiller

Convicted sex offenders who harass their victims upon release from prison could face being jailed for up to five years from today.

New orders commenced by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan have given the courts powers to impose orders prohibiting sex offenders from contacting or approaching their victims.

The measures are included in an order which commences further provisions of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017.

Anyone found in breach of a harassment order could be subject to a fine or a jail term of up to five years.

The Justice Minister described the new orders as bringing some "peace of mind" to victims of sex offenders.

"The introduction of harassment orders is an important step to help protect those who have suffered from sexual offences from being victimised further by their attackers," Mr Flanagan said.

"Breach of these orders will be an offence punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment for up to five years.

"I hope that this measure will help bring some peace of mind to victims in the potentially traumatic period around the release of their attacker."

The courts can now order a sex offender to keep a certain distance away from a victim's home, workplace or any other location frequented by the victim.

Anyone convicted of a sexually related offence and deemed a sex offender can also be prohibited from approaching a victim or communicating with them by any means.

Orders can be imposed at the time of the offender's sentence, where the sentence includes a term of imprisonment, or at any time before the offender's release from prison.

According to the Department of Justice, this may also include remission and the orders must be made for a term not exceeding 12 months from the date the offender is released from prison.

Risk

The order signed by the Justice Minister will also allow a court to amend conditions or include new conditions for convicted sex offenders under the supervision of the probation service post-release.

It is the latest in a large number of amendments to be introduced under the Sex Offenders Act 2001.

Last year, Mr Flanagan's predecessor, Frances Fitzgerald, said the Department of Justice was drafting amendments to the act that would allow for the electronic monitoring as well as changes to the notification requirements and risk assessments for sex offenders.

The proposed law would also allow gardaí to disclose information in "extenuating circumstances" about people on the sex offenders' register and allow courts to prohibit sex offenders from working with children.

The proposed laws are among 139 initiatives to promote equality for women and girls as part of the Department of Justice's 'National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020'.

Another strategy announced last year to combat violence against women is to create a new category of crime called "harmful communications", that will include so-called 'revenge porn', as well as a new offence of stalking.

The offence of harassment will also be extended to include all forms of communication including online or other digital communications.

Irish Independent

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