The main purpose of the Sex Offenders Act is to impose a requirement on certain sex offenders to notify the Garda Siochana of their name(s) and address(es) and any changes to those details in order to ensure that the information in that respect contained within the Garda Siochana national computer is kept fully up to date.
The Act also:
- creates a new civil court order against sex offenders whose behaviour in the community gives the Garda Siochana reasonable cause for concern that the order is necessary to protect the public from serious harm from him or her;
- creates a new offence for sex offenders who seek or accept work involving unsupervised contact with children without informing the employer of their conviction;
- provides for the post-release supervision of sex offenders by the Probation and Welfare Service; and
- introduces separate legal representation for complainants in rape and other serious sexual assault cases during applications to adduce evidence or cross-examine on the complainant’s past sexual experience.
With the exceptions detailed below, the offences referred to in the Schedule to the Act will be the sexual offences to which the Act will apply. The offences listed in the Schedule will therefore be the offences which will trigger the notification requirement etc.
The list is comprehensive, with the emphasis on those offences which are most applicable to the protection of children against sexual abuse. It also includes certain offences such as rape, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault which can be committed against both children and adults.
Because the Act aims to target the child sex abuser and the serious sex offender, a number of offences that would otherwise attract the notification obligation are exempted.
The offences of sexual assault and incest in cases where the victim was 17 years of age or more and the convicted person was not sentenced to imprisonment for the offence are exempted. Consensual teenage sexual activity where the victim is between 15 and 17 years of age and the other party to the offence is no more than 3 years older than the victim is also exempted.
The Minister may make regulations prescribing any matter or thing referred to in the Act or for the purpose of enabling any provision of the Act to have full effect. It also provides that any such regulations will be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.
Obligations of Sex Offenders to Notify Certain Information
The ‘‘relevant date’’ is the date from which the sex offender is subject to the notification requirements, as the date of conviction for the sexual offence concerned.
The notification requirements apply to all persons convicted of a qualifying sexual offence after the Act comes into force. It also applies to persons convicted of a qualifying offence before the Act came into force where sentence has yet to be determined and after sentence has been imposed where the offender was still in custody in prison or the Central Mental Hospital or is on temporary release. Persons whose sentence is otherwise still in force, for example, persons subject to community service orders or persons on bail pending appeal are subject to the requirement to register.
The Act notification periods which apply under this Part. These are
a minimum 5 year period for those convicted and sentenced to a non-custodial sentence or a fully suspended sentence;
- a 7 year period for those sentenced to a custodial sentence of 6 months or less;
- a 10 year period for those sentenced to a custodial sentence of between 6 months and 2 years; and
- a lifetime notification obligation for those sentenced to more than 2
The periods that would otherwise be applicable, be they 5, 7, or 10 years, are halved for offenders under eighteen years of age at time of sentence. In the case of consecutive terms for two or more qualifying offences, the period will be the aggregate of those terms. In the case of concurrent terms, it will be the aggregate of those terms less any deduction necessary to ensure that no period is counted more than once.
Provision is made for the notification requirements to cease where a conviction is quashed on appeal or otherwise. Provision is also made for an increase or reduction in the notification period where a sentence is varied on appeal.
The Act defines the nature of the notification requirements. Initially an offender must, either by personal attendance at a major Garda station or by written notice, notify his/her name and home address to the Garda Siochana within 10 days of becoming subject to the requirement.
Thereafter he/she must, again within 10 days of the event, notify the Garda Siochana of any subsequent changes to his/her name or address and any other address at which he/she spends a qualifying period (defined as 10 days or 2 or more periods which taken together amount to 10 days or more) in any 12 month period.
Persons who leave the State for an intended continuous period of 10 days or more at a time must inform the Gardaí´ in advance of their leaving. If the person, when leaving, did not intend to remain outside the State for a continuous period of 10 days, but does, he/she must so inform the Garda´ı within a further 10 days. The notification requirement will not apply during any period the person concerned is either in custody in prison or in the Central Mental Hospital or temporarily released.
Discharge from obligation
A person who is subject to the lifetime notification requirement may apply to the Circuit Court for an order discharging him or her from the obligation to comply with those requirements on the ground that the interests of the common good are no longer served by his or her continuing to be subject to them.
Such an application may be made after 10 years have elapsed from the applicant’s date of release from prison and the applicant is required to notify the Garda Siochana of his/her intention to make such an application. The superintendent, to whom such application would be made, or any other member of the Garda Siochana is entitled to appear and be heard at the hearing of the application and will in the event of the court making an order discharging the applicant from the obligation, be notified by the Court of the discharge.
Offences in connection with notification requirements
The 2001 Act makes failure to comply with the notification requirements or the provision of false or misleading information a summary offence (for which there is a provision for a defence of reasonable excuse for failure to so comply). =
Application of this Part to persons convicted outside State).
The Act extends to persons who have been convicted of sex offences abroad who, at the time of the conviction or thereafter, become resident for a qualifying period in this country. There must be comparability between the offence to which the foreign conviction applies, and offences covered by the Act.
Certificate as evidence
The court will immediately on conviction of an offender for a relevant offence, notify the Garda Siochana that the offender is subject to the notification requirements. The minimum 5 year notification period will apply until the sentence is determined. Once sentence is determined, the court will notify the Garda Siochana of the precise notification period applicable in the individual case by way of the issue of a second certificate.
Copies of the certificate(s) will also be issued by the court to the convicted person and to the person in charge of the place where the convicted person is detained (e.g., prison Governor/Director of Central Mental Hospital) and the Probation and Welfare Service, as appropriate.
Sex Offenders (Amendment) Act 2021
The primary purpose of the legislation is to make changes to the Sex Offenders Act 2001.
The main features of the Act are:
- Changes to the notification requirements for sex offenders, including a reduction of the notification period from 7 to 3 days;
- Providing powers to the Garda Síochána to take fingerprints, palm prints and photographs to confirm the identity of the person making a notification;
- Creating a legislative basis for the assessment and management of risk posed by sex offenders across teams involving probation officers, Gardaí and Tusla;
- Providing for the Garda Síochána to disclose information relating to convicted sex offenders, in extenuating circumstances (for example, where there is a serious threat to public safety);
- Providing a power for a court to prohibit a sex offender from working with children;
- Introducing electronic monitoring of certain sex offenders, to assist in ensuring an offender’s compliance with a sex offender order or a post-release supervision order; and
- Allowing the Garda Síochána to apply for the discharge and variation of a sex offender order.
Provisions of the Act
The Act substitutes the definition of “a vulnerable person” for “mentally impaired”
The court may determine the period for which a person who is aged under 18 at the time of the commission of the offence is subject to the notification requirements of Part 2. This term shall not exceed 5 years.
The 2023 Act strengthens the existing notification requirements. It provides that an offender must attend at a Garda station to notify his/her name, previous name(s) and home address to the Garda Síochána within 3 days of becoming subject to the requirement. Thereafter he/she must, within 3 days of the event, notify the Garda Síochána of any subsequent changes to his/her name or address and any other address at which he/she spends a qualifying period (defined as 3 days or 2 or more periods which taken together amount to 3 days or more) in any 12 month period.
Persons who leave the State for an intended continuous period of 3 days or more at a time must inform the Gardaí in advance of their leaving. He/she must also provide the Gardaí with the address of each place they are staying and the date he/she intends to return to the State. If the person, when leaving, did not intend to remain outside the State for a continuous period of 3 days, but does, he/she must so inform the Gardaí within a further 3 days. This notification can be done in writing. If an offender has not made a notification in the previous 12 months, he/she must do so no later than 7 days after the end of that 12 month period. If a member of the Gardaí is not satisfied that the person making the notification has a home address, the person shall notify the member of where he/she intends to reside that night and must continue to update the member of where he/she intends to spend the night every 3rd day thereafter or as prescribed by the Gardaí until the member is satisfied that he/she has acquired a home address. Where a person who is subject to the notification requirement has a disability such that he/she is unable to attend in person and provides a written certificate from a medical practitioner to this effect, the Garda Síochána shall make arrangements for the notification to be taken at the person’s home or any other place.
There is power for the Gardaí to take fingerprints, palm prints and photographs of persons subject to the notification requirements. It also provides for the destruction of fingerprints, palm prints and photographs.
There are new notification requirements into the offences and the insertion of a new offence of failing or refusing to allow finger prints, palm prints or photographs to be taken.
The 2023 Act reduces the notification period to 3 days from 7 days for those who have been convicted outside the State who, at the time of the conviction or thereafter, become resident for a qualifying period in the State.