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Bill will propose potential life sentences for women guilty of incest

Legislation being brought forward by Denis Naughten will end a 17-year legal loophole where men are given longer sentences than women.

Denis Naughten's legislation would mean both men and women could case life sentences if convicted of incest.
Denis Naughten's legislation would mean both men and women could case life sentences if convicted of incest.
Image: Photocall Ireland

A NEW BILL introduced to the Dáil proposed to end a 17-year legal loophole which sees men liable for life imprisonment if convicted of incest, while women may face only shorter sentences.

Legislation proposed by former Fine Gael TD Denis Naughten seeks to amend the Punishment of Incest Act 1908, a law inherited by the Irish state after independence, so that both men and women can be imprisoned for life.

The original legislation carried a maximum prison term of seven years, which was extended in 1993 and 1995 after public outcry when a Kilkenny father was jailed for abusing his daughter.

While the legislation now means that men can face life imprisonment for such crimes, the amendments did not cover women, which are still subject only to the seven-year maximal case.

Naughten, a TD for Roscommon-South Leitrim, said the need to address this discrepancy had been highlighted by an abuse case in his own constituency where a mother was given the maximum seven-year term after conviction on ten counts of incest.

“I know that it’s the intention of the government to close off this loophole at some stage,” Naughten said yesterday, “though they may argue that they’re going to put it in some other piece of amending legislation.

“It’s over three years now since that case went through the courts, and it hasn’t been closed off. I want to make sure that it’s closed off, either in this Bill or through another coming through in the coming months.”

Naughten said the Bill also highlighted the State’s “failure to actively review and modernise legislation” in the area of sexual crimes.

“Under the current law there is a gulf between the sentencing of a man and the sentencing of a women in the case of incest,” he said.

Because Dáil rules dictate that it be treated as opposition business, Naughten’s legislation can only be dealt with during the Dáil’s monthly Friday sittings, where the order of business is determined by lottery.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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