Time to overhaul laws on sexual offences

 

Sir, – The Minister for Justice is to be commended for indicating her intention to define sexual consent in legislation for the first time, following the clarity provided by the Supreme Court in the recent case of Director of Public Prosecutions v CO’R (2016).

However, the manner in which that proposal is to be addressed leaves a lot to be desired. The Minister has indicated that the new definition will be inserted as an amendment to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015, which is currently before the Oireachtas. Regretfully, this will serve as yet another patch to the already convoluted series of Acts which cover sexual offences in this jurisdiction

As it stands, there are 14 different pieces of legislation that deal with some aspect of our criminal law governing sexual offences, which by any objective assessment is far too many. This is in marked contrast to other common-law jurisdictions that have consolidated their sexual offences legislation in recent years.

Consolidating important areas of the criminal law is not without precedent in this jurisdiction over the last 25 years, and certain areas, such as public-order offences, non-fatal offences to the person and theft and fraud offences, have to some extent been consolidated, providing consistency and some degree of clarity to members of the public at large.

There is no good reason why all sexual offences should not be consolidated in a similar fashion, providing the public with one clear and unambiguous piece of legislation.

Perhaps the Minister rather than proceed with yet another incremental Bill, withdraw the current patch and bring forward a comprehensive Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill before the House this year.

And while I am on the subject of law reform, might I also recommend that she bring forward a comprehensive Bill governing the law on homicide too. – Yours, etc,

NIALL NELIGAN,

Lecturer in Criminal Law,

Department of Law,

Dublin Institute

of Technology,

Aungier Street,

Dublin 2.