Reporting of underage sex exempt from children's bill
PROFESSIONALS who work with children will not have to report consensual sex between older teenagers to the authorities, under proposed new child protection laws.
The under-age 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 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 Child and Family Agency (CFA).
It applies to professions including doctors, teachers, social workers and gardai.
It also applies to 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.
But Liz Canavan, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, told the annual general meeting of Treoir that mandatory reporting will not be required in some cases. This includes where a young person aged 15 to 17 is engaged in consensual sexual activity with someone who is not more than two years older than them.
But it is important that 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 two-year clause has been welcomed by Treoir, the national information service for unmarried parents, which campaigned for legal clarity around certain under-age sexual activity.
Meanwhile, a former Supreme Court judge warned the rights of unmarried fathers who do not live with their partners will not be improved under new family laws.
Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness also called for a central register for guardianship agreements between unmarried parents and for people other than biological parents who may acquire guardianship rights, under the Government's proposed Children and Family Relationships bill.
The bill was championed by ex-Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
Margaret Dromey, CEO of Treoir, welcomed plans to provide for "multiple guardians" – people other than biological parents to acquire guardianship rights in respect of children in chain circumstances.
"It is particularly important for step-parents who might be full time careers of children but have no legal recognition or rights".