Monitoring sex offenders in Ireland
Upon conviction of a sexual offence, the court is required to issue a certificate, stating the offence, to the Gardaí, the convicted offender and the governor of the facility where the offender is to be detained. The certificate also sets out the sentence received and the fact that the person has become subject to a reporting requirement.
The court issues this certificate on behalf of the Gardaí to the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit. This means that details of everyone subject to the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 are given to the Domestic Violence and Sex Assault Unit who keep a record of each individual by way of the court certificate (commonly known as the Sex Offenders Register). This information is then cross-referenced with the Sex Offenders Notification Form supplied by the local Garda Station and in this way the sex offenders may be monitored.
At a local level the Gardaí, through nominated Inspectors, regularly make enquiries to ensure that the sex offenders in the local district are still residing at the address given in the notification form and that all the information contained in the notification form is accurate and up to date. A nominated Inspector in each Garda Division has responsibility for liaising with the central Garda Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit for the purpose of monitoring the application of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 in general.
When a court convicts someone of a qualifying sexual offence it is obliged when sentencing the offender to consider whether or not to impose a sentence involving post-release supervision. In doing so the court must take the following into account:
- The need for a period of post-release supervision of the offender
- The need to protect the public from serious harm from the offender
- The need to prevent the commission of further sexual offences by the offender
- The need to rehabilitate or further rehabilitate the offender
In deciding whether or not to impose a sentence involving post-release supervision the court may hear evidence or submissions from any concerned person. Any period of post-release supervision imposed on the sex offender by the court will be supervised by the Probation Service which liaises with the Gardaí in order to ensure the sex offender complies with the supervision order. Examples of conditions which the court may include in the order of supervision are:
- Prohibiting the sex offender from attending certain places, such as schools, sports-clubs and play-grounds
- Requiring the sex offender to receive psychological counselling or other appropriate treatment during the period of supervision
If a sex offender fails or refuses to comply, without reasonable excuse, with the requirements relating to supervision, the offender is committing an offence and is liable, on summary conviction, to a class C fine or to imprisonment for a maximum of 12 months, or both.
Monitoring sex offenders from other jurisdictions in Ireland
A provision was included in the Sex Offenders Act, 2001 to ensure that Ireland would not become a safe-haven for sex offenders convicted outside Ireland who might seek to avoid the reporting requirements imposed on them by the place of conviction.
Anyone who is convicted of a sexual offence in another country and who later moves to Ireland is subject to a reporting requirement in the same way as someone convicted in Ireland, provided that the sexual crime corresponds to a sexual crime in Ireland which gives rise to the reporting requirements. There is also a notification requirement where the person is already subject to a similar reporting requirement under the law of the place of conviction. Such people are required to notify the Gardaí if they have been resident in Ireland for 7 days.
In reality the Gardaí in Ireland have a very good system of receiving and giving information from and to police forces through Interpol. There is worldwide acceptance that police forces have a duty of care to all citizens to share such information on sex offenders where there is a real danger to vulnerable people if exposed to such persons.
The Sex Offenders Act, 2001 also places requires sex offenders to inform prospective employers of the nature of their conviction when applying to do work that consists mainly of the offender having unsupervised access to or contact with a child or children or a mentally impaired person. If someone fails to notify an employer the offender could be fined up to €12,697 or sentenced up to 5 years in prison or both.
Can I find out if a sex offender lives in my area?
No. The details held by the Gardaí in relation to those persons guilty of sex offences and who are subject to the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 are not subject to freedom of information legislation. You are not entitled, therefore, to apply under the Freedom of Information Acts to find out details of sex offenders living in your area.
Under the Data Protection Acts, 1988-2003 you are entitled to request information held about yourself on computer or in manual or paper files. This includes information held by the Gardaí (with a number of exceptions). Under the data protection legislation, however, the only person entitled to request this information held about you is yourself. It is not possible for you to make such a request in respect of another person. Further information on Data Protection in Ireland is available here.