A delay in publishing the Bill to criminalise buying sexual services is “disappointing” and “regrettable” said rights groups.
It had been anticipated that Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald’s Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill would be published before the Dáil summer recess so it could progress through the stages and be processed expeditiously.
However, that will not happen until the house reconvenes in September – 10 months after the heads of the Bill were published.
The delay means the process of bringing in new laws covering many areas – including child abuse, crimes against people with disabilities and increased monitoring of sex offenders – will not come into effect as early as hoped.
"While we are disappointed that the Sexual Offences Bill, which is expected to include laws targeting the buyers of sex, has not been published, we remain hopeful that it will become reality in early September," said Nusha Yonkova of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, and affiliate member of the Turn Off The Red Light campaign.
She added that there remains an urgent need to switch the punitive focus from those selling sexual services to purchasers, and said the Immigrant Council is hopeful the Bill will continue to attract unanimous cross-party support once it is back on the table in September, to prevent further delays.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice insisted the Sexual Offences Bill would be published later this year.
"Some of the children's offences are urgent. Time is of the essence and, with some of the new stuff around grooming . . . gaps need filling," said Rape Crisis Network Ireland director Cliona Saidlear.
“But it’s also important that every part of this works and it’s the best legislation possible for victims of crime. It’s a piece of legislation that is much anticipated, we’ve been working into it for a very long time but it is an enormous piece of legislation and very important.”