By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Sex offenders arriving in Ireland from abroad will be obliged to register with the gardai or risk facing prison terms of up to 18 months and substantial fines under new laws announced by Justice Minister John O’Donoghue.
"They will have to notify their name and address to the gardai so that they will be able to monitor their movements," O’Donoghue said.
The minister said it was recognized that the "no hiding place" clampdown was needed urgently and the government intended to have the legislation in place before the end of the year.
The tough new laws aimed at pedophiles and rapists involve:
€ After leaving prison (there are about 300 sex offenders in Irish jails) they must notify gardai of their address within 10 days so that they can be tracked and supervised. Any subsequent change of address must also be notified.
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€ The tracking procedure will be extended to foreign sexual offenders visiting Ireland.
€ Details of names on the register can be disclosed in exceptional circumstances to deal with an immediate risk of a crime or to alert the public to danger.
€ Convicted sex offenders could be sent back to jail for five years if they applied for a job with unsupervised access to children or fail to tell employers about their past.
€ The length of time offender’s names remain on the register will depend on the severity of their conviction. It is expected that those who served more than two years will remain on it for life.
€ Victims of rape or other serious sexual assaults will be provided with separate legal representation if the defense lawyers for the accused "seeks to bring up their own past sexual history."
The minister said that the legislation would not cause "witch hunts" and information about offenders would only be given out on a "strict need-to-know" basis.
O’Donoghue said information would be supplied to a health board about applicants for jobs in the child care area.
"Also, if the gardai feel that the presence of an individual in an area is a matter of deep concern and could give rise to the commission of an offense, they will be in a position to dispense the information.
"The mechanics of this will have to be worked out, but certainly if an individual who is quite dangerous were to be living next to a group of people, in that event it would be a matter for the judgment of the gardai to decide that those people should know.
"The information will not be given out willy-nilly, but only when there is a very, very real danger of an offense being committed," O’Donoghue said.