Eleven years after pledges, no reform of monitoring of sex offenders

Register ‘nothing but a fig leaf’ as predators can re-offend yet comply with law, Dáil told

The current sex offenders register is “nothing but a fig leaf” and any sexual predator determined to re-offend can do so easily and still be in compliance with current law, a former government minister has claimed.

Independent TD Denis Naughten said that so long as an offender is at a given address for "between one day and seven" they are abiding by the law.

“The reality is that you could drive a coach and four through the so-called sex offenders register we have”, the former minister for communications said.

A long-term campaigner for reform of the law to monitor high risk sexual offenders Mr Naughten said reform has been promised since 2009 but when no progress was made he introduced legislation in 2012, which passed the second or preliminary stage debate in the Dáil.


In the eight years since then some 800 sexual offenders have been released from prison and some of them “may have been stopped from re-offending if the laws had been reformed”.

The Galway-Roscommon TD pointed out that a convicted sex offender released from Arbour Hill prison can write to the Superintendent of Bandon Garda station, Bandon, Co Cork informing them they are going to reside “in Co Donegal”.

“Once they are in that premises for between one day and seven they are in compliance with the current law on sex offenders.”

He said reforming the law on monitoring offenders was a priority in the last programme for government and the current one but he asked when the legislation would be published.

Raising the issue in the Dáil on Thursday Mr Naughten said the current system of keeping track of the location of sex offenders was not working and these “lax monitoring conditions” mean “women and children are put at grossly unacceptable risk from those who are determined to re-offend” and gardaí “are trying to monitor these people with both hands tied behind their backs”.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said she accepted Mr Naughten’s concerns and the needs to make progress in the area. She acknowledged that while there is legislation in place, “it does not go far enough” and the measures “may not be strict enough”.

Work is underway on the reforming legislation.

A general scheme or overall outline of a new Bill was approved by government in 2018 but drafting has yet to be completed.

The Minister said she wanted to progress the legislation as soon as possible and had had asked for an update on the timeline.

The Bill will include stricter notification requirements, fingerprinting and photographing of offenders where necessary, enhanced supervision, the electronic tagging of high risk offenders in certain circumstances and court authority to ban offenders from working with children.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times