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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 10 December, 2019
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Dozens of children moved around Ireland for sexual exploitation

A new bill wants people who groom children to face 14 years in jail.

Image: Shutterstock

THE GOVERNMENT HAS said it will not block a bill that introduces sentences of up to 14 years for people who groom children for sexual purposes.

A number of frontline agencies have welcomed the news, describing it as “the first step towards curbing the activities of pimps, human traffickers and organised crime”.

Fine Gael TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy proposed the Child Grooming Bill.

If it becomes legislation, a person who uses any means to communication to entice a child to act in a way that “would constitute sexual exploitation of the child” could face up to 14 years in jail.

When introducing the bill in the Dáil today, Corcoran Kennedy said many people won’t be aware of “the number of children who, shockingly, are being moved around our own country to be sexually exploited”, noting: “Thirty children were detected over a two-year period.”

She said the debate is timely as it comes “just two weeks after the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child challenged Ireland to outline what measures are in place to protect children from sexual abuse and grooming”. We were given four months to respond.

Corcoran Kennedy noted that the government is also planning to publish legislation targetting sex buyers.

‘Depraving a child’ 

Junior minister Paul Kehoe spoke on behalf of Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who couldn’t attend the debate.

He said the penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment “reflects the serious nature and intent behind the communication”.

“It will also be a separate offence to send a child sexually explicit material by means of information and communications technology. Familiarising a child with such material is a classic grooming technique which seeks to desensitise a child to sexual activity.”

Speaking about the Sexual Offences Bill, which will cover other aspects of sexual grooming, he said:

A person who, for the purpose of corrupting or depraving a child, causes that child to witness or watch sexual activity or view sexually-explicit material will commit an offence. It will also be an offence for a person, for their own sexual gratification, to cause a child to witness or watch sexual activity.

In a joint statement the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and Ruhama said today’s news is “very welcome as it not only sends out the message to abusers that they have no place to hide but it also brings Ireland into line with other European countries”.

“By introducing an offence of grooming we can ensure that those who are guilty cannot escape justice by creating confusion with legal arguments in court. The jail terms of up to 14-years which are included in the measures underline the seriousness of the crimes involved and are welcome.”

The bill now moves to the committee stage.

Read: ‘Be careful what images you post online, they could be used by paedophiles’

Read: Child rapist moved to UK after gardaí saw a video of him raping 11-year-old girl

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Órla Ryan

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