Press Statement 2nd June 2006

Sex Laws - Emergency legislation in the Dail

Government's failure to address loopholes in law, allowing release of serious sex offenders, condemned; Concern Over Criminalisation of young people

Joe Higgins T.D.

Socialist Party Joe Higgins, Socialist Party TD today condemned the government's failure to address the loopholes in law which is allowing serious sex offenders to be released. The debacle that has led to the release of Mr. A and the impending release of others is a blow to their victims. The government has yet to give a credible explanation for how they allowed this to happen. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell outlined in the Seanad a range of other legislation which still stands and is not unconstitutional. We want an assurance from the government that those adult men, if released under the Supreme Court judgement will be charged under the existing and valid legislation. The legislation before the Oireachtas today is not a proper response to this crisis. It is seriously flawed in that it criminalises young people having consensual sex and doesn't draw a distinction between this and the abuse and rape of minors by adults. We need legislation to protect children but the governments' bill could lead to the situation whereby in the case of a 16 year old couple having consensual sex the male could be prosecuted and imprisoned for five years and in the example of a 15 year female having consensual sex with a 14 year old male that the male could be imprisoned for life.

In order to prevent the criminalisation of young people I am proposing amendments but as this bill stands I cannot support it. The current crisis resulted from a constitutional challenge to the 1935 act, but this new legislation could possibly be open to a constitutional challenge on the basis of gender equality. This legislation is dealing with very serious issues regarding the rights of young people, but there has been no serious attempt to consult young people who will be affected or their parents. Parties are using this real crisis as a cover to increase the age of consent to 17 for young men. This doesn't recognise the reality of young people's lives in Ireland in the 21st century. It is absurd for example that 16 year olds are committing a criminal act by engaging in consensual sex.

The Socialist Party understands the justified anger that has lead many people to protest against the government's incompetence. However the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2006 doesn't deal with the concerns of those protesting and is dangerously creating new problems that can affect young people in the future.

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