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The National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence.

An Oifig Náisiúnta um Fhoréigean Baile, Gnéasach agus Inscnebhunaithe a Chosc

  1. Minister Ahern examines future management of convicted sex offenders

Ahern Examines Future Management of Convicted Sex Offenders

Minister considers feasibility of electronic monitoring

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Dermot Ahern, T.D., today published a new report on the management of convicted sex offenders, providing a comprehensive overview of the current position and future policy options including electronic tagging.

An Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service, the Probation Service and COSC - the agency dealing with preventing domestic, sexual and gender based violence - all worked with the Minister in producing the report which reviews existing legal and administrative arrangements for the management of sex offenders from conviction through custody and on to release into the community. It examines research and international practice in the area and based on this, advocates an integrated approach to the issue.  It looks, in particular, at the position of victims.

Speaking on its publication, Minister Ahern said "I am very conscious that victims and the public generally have particular concerns about sex offenders.  I want to see a more integrated approach that focusses on public safety and brings more cohesion to the way we manage this particular group of offenders and this Document points us in the right direction."

In preparing the document, the Working Group, drawn from the key stakeholders in the Justice family, examined the path of a sex offender through the criminal justice system from the moment the offender is convicted. The options open to the sentencing judge and what can be done in prison were reviewed as was the role of the Gardaí, the Probation Service and others when the convicted offender re-enters the community.  The primary aim of the report is to ensure that there will be a more unified approach with  all parts of the criminal justice system working together  in a more cohesive way to achieve the same aim, namely enhanced public safety.

The Minister continued: "The report - quite correctly - recognises that not all sex offenders pose the same level of risk, indeed research shows that the rate of reoffending for sex offenders is lower than for most offenders.  However, those who do re-offend pose a serious threat and we must do all in our power to enhance public safety by ensuring that the considerable resources of the criminal justice agencies are working in a more joined-up and focussed manner at all times. There is no miracle approach that can guarantee 100% success. Research also shows that the best opportunity for changing offending behaviour is properly supervised and supported reintegration into the community and that resources should follow risk - that most attention should be directed at the higher risk sex offenders."

The main innovations proposed in the report are:

  •  The level of risk posed by convicted sex offenders to be assessed using internationally recognised risk assessment tools;
  • The level of risk to be assessed at critical stages and shared between the criminal justice agencies (e.g. on conviction, during any custodial sentence and  release in the community);
  • New interventions for sex offenders to be introduced by the Irish Prison Service;
  • More focus on arrangements for the transition from custody to the community;
  • All higher risk sex offenders to be monitored on an individual basis by local risk management committees involving the Garda Síochána and Probation;
  • Strengthened legislative provisions on monitoring of sex offenders (e.g. more powers for the Gardaí to obtain information).

In addition, the Document looks at a variety of other issues relevant to sex offenders including Megan's Law and the use of electronic monitoring. 

The Minister also announced that he has established a Project Board, led by the Probation Service, to look at the implementation of electronic monitoring in this jurisdiction.   Minister Ahern said: "While we already have legislative provisions for the electronic monitoring of prisoners on temporary release, I have asked the Project Board to also explore the possible use of GPS electronic monitoring technology to monitor higher risk sex offenders for the critical 6 month period when they have completed their sentences and have been released back into the community.  This approach would require new legislation and I have instructed my officials to explore the legal aspects of this in parallel with the work of the Project Board."

The Minister said he is conscious that there are many aspects of the management of sex offenders that raise issues in the public mind. That is why he is putting the document into the public domain to afford all those interested in the issue the opportunity to be informed and express their considered views. Written submissions are invited by the 30 April, 2009.

The Minister also announced that as part of the consultative process a conference is being organised in March where interested parties can raise questions and share views on the important issues raised in the document.

Concluding, the Minister said: "I want to proceed in addressing these issues as quickly as possible and side by side with the consultation process, my officials will now begin to examine how best to implement the key recommendations in a timely fashion."

The full report is available on the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform’s website 

27 January 2009.