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New law to clamp down on child prostitution

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Fine Gael's Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Fine Gael's Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Fine Gael's Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Anyone found guilty of "grooming" a child for prostitution faces up to 14 years in jail.

A draft new law published yesterday aims to strengthen existing protections against child sexual exploitation and makes luring a child into the sex industry a specific criminal offence.

The bill was launched by Fine Gael TD, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, who has campaigned on the issue and who got help from experts working for child welfare groups. The Laois-Offaly TD said the Justice Minister had promised to introduce a new law on this specific issue during the new Dail term which begins next week.

The move comes amid continuing pressure on the Government to comply with EU demands to update its child protection laws. Ireland failed to meet a deadline of December 2013 to comply with an EU directive on the issue and has faced serious criticism on the issue from the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

Grooming

The draft bill, expected to influence the final legislation from the Justice Department, follows a unanimous decision by TDs and Senators in Oireachtas Justice Committee this year.

The former Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, got Cabinet approval last year to move towards drafting new legislation which would comply with EU obligations.

Ms Corcoran Kennedy said the aim was to ensure existing laws were pulled together and the specific issue of so-called grooming was addressed.

"My short bill seeks to tidy up existing legislation in this area and introduce into Irish law the specific crime of child grooming, whether it takes place in the community or online," she said.

The Fine Gael TD said there were continuing reports of child trafficking and sexual exploitation and every effort must be made to tackle the issue. She paid tribute to Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, the organisation which combats prostitution, Ruhama, and the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

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