By Cate McCurry, PA
A new law that will allow gardaí to provide schools and creches with photographs of sex offenders will not lead to the sharing of such images on social media, the Justice Minister said.
Gardaí will be able to provide pictures of a convicted sex offender on the sex offenders register to a member of the public where there are children or vulnerable people if they are seen acting suspiciously or inappropriately near the premises.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the Bill will ensure Ireland has the strongest law possible in monitoring sex offenders.
An amendment to the legislation will be tabled in the Dáil next week and is expected to be enacted by the end of the month.
Ms McEntee said it would relate to very specific situations and would not lead to the sharing of sex offenders’ pictures online.
“They would be able to show a particular photograph to a principal in a school, where perhaps concerns have been raised around an individual who’s on the sex offenders register, or any other situation where children or vulnerable people might be involved,” Ms McEntee said on Thursday.
“This will obviously be provided by the gardai so the likelihood that there would be mistaken identity with this person, who has already been convicted and is on the register, I think it’s very slim.
“But what this will not be is a picture being put up on social media, a picture online being shared widely. This will be very specific.
“It will be very focused on where there might be particular concerns, including children. It’s to make sure that we have the most comprehensive and strongest law in place that we can monitor sex offenders.”
Information can be provided by gardai in circumstances where they believe that there may be a risk to the public caused by the offender’s behaviour.
This could include informing a school principal in circumstances where a convicted sex offender has been seen loitering in the vicinity of a school.
Ms McEntee has been working on the legislation with independent TD Denis Naughten to give further protection to communities from sex offenders.
The minister said it would not include every single person who is listed on the sex offender register.
“It’s very specific situations where concern might arise. Obviously sex offenders have to be monitored at the moment, that’s not going to change, they have to check in,” she added.
“There’s a strict rule in terms of where they’re living and how they’re engaging with the gardai.
“If a member of An Garda Síochána is concerned that a person is perhaps behaving inappropriately or that there might be a risk, be it to children, be it to vulnerable persons, then under this new law they would be allowed to share a photo with an individual that they feel is necessary.
“If somebody has (been) seen around a school, if they’re behaving in a way that they shouldn’t, to be able to show a picture to a teacher or to a principal, to make them aware of this individual.
“That is the kind of situation that we’re talking about. It’s very specific, it’s very focused and where a concern or a problem arises.”
The changes will be to the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill.
The proposals to increase the time available to gardai to take fingerprints, palm prints and photographs of a relevant sex offender to seven days from three days will be tabled later this month.