Monitoring and treatment of sex offenders in Ireland
If you are convicted of a sexual offence, you will be required to notify the Garda Síochána (the Irish police) of your name and address for a period deemed by the court to reflect the seriousness of your offence, even if no prison sentence is imposed.
If you are sentenced to prison, you may also be subject to additional monitoring upon release to assist with your reintegration into the community and reduce the likelihood of your reoffending.
The rules governing the monitoring and supervision of sex offenders in Ireland are set out in the Sex Offenders Act 2001.
This page provides information about the treatment and monitoring of sex offenders in Ireland. It includes detail on:
- The sex offenders register
- Post-release supervision orders
- Sex offender orders
- Treatment of sex offenders
You can also find out more about how criminal trials work in Ireland.
Sex offenders register
Upon being convicted of a sex offence, the court will issue you with a Certificate of Conviction setting out the length of your sentence and your reporting requirements.
The court will also give a copy of your certificate to the Sex Offender Management and Intelligence Unit (SOMIU), the Garda department responsible for maintaining a record of people subject to Part 2 of the Sex Offenders Act. This record is commonly referred to as the ‘sex offenders register’, although the term has no formal legal basis.
The sexual offences subject to reporting requirements are:
- Sexual Assault
- Aggravated Sexual Assault
- Defilement of a girl aged under 15
- Defilement of a girl aged between 15 and 17
- Other sexual activities involving children or vulnerable persons
- Attempts or assistance in relation to any of the above
In the cases of sexual assault and incest, the Sex Offenders Act 2001 does not apply if:
- The victim or other party to the offence was aged 17 years or more when the offence was committed, and
- The person convicted has not been sentenced to any punishment involving imprisonment or made subject to any measures involving deprivation of liberty
The Act does not apply in cases of defilement of a child aged under 17 years if:
- The victim is aged between 15 and 17 years of age when the offence takes place, and
- The person guilty of the offence is less than 3 years older than the victim
What information must the sex offender provide?
If you are convicted of a sexual offence and become subject to the reporting requirements of the Sex Offenders Act 2001, you must notify the Gardaí of:
- Your name, date of birth and home address within 3 days of becoming subject to the requirements (this normally means within 3 days of being released from prison)
- Any change to your name or home address within 3 days of the change
- Any plans to live somewhere else in Ireland or to leave Ireland for more than 3 days (if you plan to do this, you must provide the Gardaí with the address you will be staying at)
If someone is subject to sex offender notification requirements and is in prison for any offence, the prison must notify the Garda Commissioner at least 10 days before the prisoner is due to be released.
Even if your circumstances do not change, you must inform Gardaí of your living arrangements once every 12 months.
Fingerprints, palm-prints and photographs
If you are subject to the sex offender notification requirements, Gardaí can take your fingerprints, palmprints and photograph to confirm your identity.
How must an offender notify Gardaí?
If you are required to provide certain information to the Gardaí under the Sex Offenders Act 2001, you must give notification by going to any Garda station which is a Divisional Headquarters, or a Garda station designated for this purpose, and giving the information in person to a member of that Garda station.
If you have a certified disability preventing you from attending the Garda station, the Gardaí may arrange for the notification to be taken at your home or another suitable location.
If you are outside Ireland for 3 days or more and did not intend to be outside the State for over 3 days, you can send a written notification with the required information by post to a Divisional Headquarters, or a Garda station designated for this purpose. You must do this within 6 days of being outside the State.
After the Gardaí receive the notification
When the Gardaí receive the notification, they acknowledge it in writing. The Gardaí also complete a Sex Offenders Notification Form, which contains the sex offender’s address and other details. A copy of the form is sent to the offender and a copy is kept at the Garda station. The original completed form is sent to SOMIU.
SOMIU monitor sex offenders by cross-referencing Notification Forms with Certificates of Conviction. SOMIU also receive email notifications when information is entered onto PULSE (the Gardaí’s computer database) about a sex offender, so they can act on any information that needs attention.
At a local level, the Gardaí have nominated Inspectors in each local district who are responsible for monitoring and managing sex offenders in their district.
How long does the requirement to notify the Gardaí last?
You are obliged to provide this information to the Gardaí about yourself:
- Indefinitely if you were sentenced to life in prison or to a term of more than 2 years
- For 10 years if the prison sentence was for between 6 months and 2 years
- For 7 years if the sentence was for less than 6 months
- For 5 years if the sentence imposed was suspended or if no prison sentence was imposed
If you were under 18 when the offence was committed, the court sets out how long you must provide this notification for. The maximum period the court can set is 5 years.
If you are sentenced to a term of imprisonment and part of that term is suspended, the suspended part is not included when calculating the term of imprisonment for the purpose of the length of the notification requirements.
Can an offender apply to have the obligation cancelled?
Any sex offender required to report to the Gardaí indefinitely can apply to the Circuit Court to cancel their obligation. However, such an application will only be considered a minimum of 10 years following your release from custody.
You apply to cancel your reporting requirement on the grounds that it no longer serves the common good. You must provide your local Garda Superintendent with advance notice of your intention to apply for the cancellation of your requirement.
What happens if an offender does not comply with the notification requirements?
If you fail (without reasonable excuse) to comply with the notification requirements, including providing false or misleading information, you may be prosecuted.
If convicted, you are liable for:
- On summary conviction, to a class A fine or a prison sentence for up to 12 months, or both
- On conviction on indictment, to a fine of up to €10,000 or a prison sentence for up to 5 years, or both
Do these notification requirements apply to someone convicted outside the State?
Yes. If you are convicted of a sexual offence outside Ireland and that offence is a sexual offence in Ireland, you are subject to the same Garda notification requirements if you come to live in Ireland. If you fail to notify the Gardaí of your details, the Gardaí can prosecute you for non-compliance with the requirements.
Under the Sex Offenders Act 2001, sex offenders must inform prospective employers of the nature of their conviction if they are applying to do work that consists of having unsupervised access to or contact with a child or children or a mentally impaired person. If the offender fails to notify an employer they can be fined up to €12,697 or sentenced to 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 about people guilty of sex offences are not subject to freedom of information legislation. Therefore, you cannot use the Freedom of Information Acts to find out about sex offenders living in your area.
Data protection rights only allow you to request information that is held about yourself. This includes information held by the Gardaí (with a number of exceptions). It is not possible to make a data protection request about another person.
Garda powers to disclose information about offenders
Gardaí can disclose some information about an offender on the sex offenders register if they believe there is a serious risk to the public and it is necessary. The Gardaí can disclose this information to anybody they feel must know to prevent harm.
Information the Gardaí can disclose includes:
- The offender’s name, photograph and current address
- The nature of the offence they were convicted for
- The risk the offender poses to the public
- Any other information the Gardaí believe the public needs to know
If the Gardaí intend to disclose your information, they must tell you before the disclosure and the reasons for it. They must give you an opportunity to make a written submission outlining whether you think the disclosure should be made.
The Gardaí do not need to notify you if they have been unable to locate you after making reasonable efforts to do so, or if they feel that the disclosure should be made immediately to prevent harm to the public.
If you breach your notification requirements and your whereabouts are unknown, the Gardaí can publish your details for the purposes of finding you.
Post-release supervision orders
If you are convicted of certain sexual offences the court will consider whether to impose a sentence with post-release supervision.
Supervised by the Probation Service, post-release supervision means that an offender is monitored when they are released from prison to ensure that they comply with the conditions of a post-release supervision order.
When considering whether to impose post-release supervision, the court can hear evidence or submissions from any concerned person and must take into account the need to:
- Protect the public from serious harm from the offender
- Prevent the offender from committing further sexual offences
- Rehabilitate the offender
The court can also include specific conditions in the supervision order. For example they can:
- Prohibit the sex offender from attending certain places, such as schools, sports-clubs and play-grounds
- Require that the sex offender get psychological counselling or other appropriate treatment during the period of supervision
However, the term of imprisonment and the length of the post-release supervision order cannot be longer than the maximum possible sentence. The offender’s probation officer can also apply to the court to change the conditions of the post-release supervision order. Such an application can be made in the month before the offender is due to be released from prison or during the supervision period.
If imposing a post-release supervision order, the court must explain the effect of the order, the consequences for non-compliance and the ability to apply to have it varied.
Non-compliance with a supervision order is an offence. If you do not adhere to the terms of your order, you can be liable, on summary conviction, to a class C fine or to a prison sentence for a maximum of 12 months, or both.
Sex offenders orders
If a member of the Gardaí (not below the rank of Chief Superintendent) has reasonable cause to consider that a sex offender under supervision in the community poses a threat to public safety, they can apply to the Circuit Court for an order to be imposed preventing the offender from doing certain things.
What does a sex offender order do?
The terms of each sex offender order depends on the evidence given to the court by the Chief Superintendent.
If, for example, the Gardaí apply to the court for a sex offender order because they are concerned that a sex offender is loitering near a school playground, then the court can include a condition in the order that prevents the offender from going within a certain distance of school playgrounds.
The Gardaí apply for sex offender orders and ensure that offenders comply with these orders. If a sex offender order is in place, the offender is also subject to the notification requirements set out in Part 2 of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 (for more see ‘sex offenders register’ above).
When does the order take effect?
A sex offender order takes effect when the sex offender is notified of it. They can be notified in the following ways:
- The sex offender, or their representative, is told verbally that an order has been made and a copy of the order is produced, or
- The sex offender is present in court when the order is made
How long does a sex offender order last?
A sex offender order remains in force for:
- 5 years from the date the offender was notified of the order, or
- A longer period the court decides is appropriate
The Gardaí can also apply to the Circuit Court to change the original order. This normally happens if the Gardaí believe that the sex offender’s behaviour has given rise to a further cause for concern that isn’t addressed by the original order.
Failure to comply with a sex offender order
Under the Criminal Law Act 1997, the Gardaí can arrest a sex offender without an arrest warrant or without having to get permission from the courts if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person is not complying with the terms of a sex offender order.
Anyone found guilty of breaching a sex offender order can be fined or imprisoned for up to 5 years (or both).
Cancelling or varying a sex offender order
Under the Sex Offenders Act 2001 if you have a sex offender order you can apply to court to change the order, or have it cancelled.
The Court can vary or cancel the order if it is satisfied that the order is no longer required to protect the public from serious harm or is causing an injustice by being in effect.
For example, the court might vary an order that prevents a sex offender from approaching school grounds if the sex offender applies for permission to attend their child’s parent/teacher meeting at their school. In this instance, the court may look favourably on varying the order for the day of the meeting.
Similarly, a court may cancel a sex offender order if a psychologist who counselled the offender gives evidence that the offender no longer poses a danger to society.
Applications to vary or cancel a sex offender order are made to the Circuit Court in the area where the offender lives or to the Circuit Court in the area where the offender’s behaviour led to the sex offender order.
Sex offenders who are involved in sex offender order proceedings are entitled to free legal aid provided they meet the relevant criteria.
Can I find out if someone has a sex offender order?
No. The Sex Offenders Act 2001 specifically says that any proceedings in relation to a sex offender order will not be heard in public. This means the in camera rule applies and the public are not allowed attend these court proceedings.
Treatment of sex offenders
The Irish Prison Service operates a range of individual and group-based therapeutic services aimed at reducing participants’ likelihood of re-offending.
The main treatment programme, Building Better Lives, is provided by a specialist team of psychologists and probation officers.
The criteria for participation include:
- A prison sentence longer than 18 months
- Full admission, on the part of the prisoner, of the offence and harm caused to the victim
- Capacity and willingness to participate in group therapy
- Stable mental health
- Some literacy
Alternative prison-based treatment services include one-to-one therapy, interventions by approved ‘in-reach’ services and interventions available to prisoners generally.
Under the Irish Prison Service’s Sex Offender Management Policy (PDF), Arbour Hill Prison is designated as the national centre for imprisoned sex offenders with a full range of therapeutic interventions available.
Midlands Prison and Wheatfield Place of Detention are designated as satellite centres where a narrower range of therapeutic interventions are available. Prisoners committed initially to other prisons are transferred to the satellite centres unless exceptional circumstances prevail.