Wednesday 24 January 2018

Child law must keep vigilantes off streets

But under the new bill who will be able to decide on identifying a released sex offender, asks Emer O'Kelly

THERE is a lot of speculation about what the specific terms will be when the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter finally introduces the bill designed to protect children. Mr Shatter and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald are talking a lot; in fact, they're talking so much that one has the nasty suspicion that there may be a lot of indecision within their departments, and possibly even a disinclination at Cabinet, to grasp the nettle.

Last week it emerged that maybe there will be a provision for gardai to inform parents when a convicted child molester moves into their neighbourhood. The department said that it's planned that "legitimate interests should receive appropriate information and if there is a danger to the public, the gardai should be able to make the identity of the sex offender known".

Except who decides the definition of a "legitimate interest?" As things stand, according to the Sex Offenders Act of 2001, the people subject to its requirements (ie those registered as sex offenders) are not subject to being identified because of the provisions of the Data Protection Act. Which seems to make the whole thing a bit pointless.

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