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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Proposed child protection laws provide exemption for consensual sex


Professionals who work with children, including doctors, teachers, social workers and gardai, will not have to report consensual sex between older teenagers to the authorities under proposed new child protection laws.

The underage sex reporting exemption will apply to children aged between 15 and 17 who engage in non abusive sexual activity with someone who is not more than two years older than them.

The two year clause has been welcomed as by Treoir, the national information service for unmarried parents, which campaigned for legal clarity around certain underage sexual activity.

The Children First Bill 2014, which could become law by next year, will make it mandatory for certain professions and post-holders to report incidents of harm, and the risk of harm, to the recently established Child and Family Agency (CFA).

But Liz Canavan, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, told the annual general meeting of Treoir that such activity will fall outside tough new mandatory reporting rules to prevent child abuse.

Professions and post-holders who will be mandated to report harm  include doctors; nurses, teachers, social workers, gardai and psychologists.

Members of the clergy, pre-school and childcare staff as well as child protection officers of religious, sporting, cultural, recreational and educational organisations offering services to children will also be mandated to report.

Ms Canavan told the Treoir AGM mandatory reporting will not be required where a young person aged 15 to 17 is engaged in sexual activity with someone who is not more than two years older than them the young person where the mandated person knows or believes that there is no material difference in capacity or maturity between the two young people.

Mandatory reporting will also not be required where the young person has indicated that a report should not be made to the CFA - and where the mandated person relies on that view.

The recently published Children First Bill 2014 is now awaiting committee stage in the Dail, but could be passed by next year.

"We are anxious to move as quickly as we can" said Ms Canavan.

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