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Version of Sarah's Law to be introduced in Ireland

Although proposed legislation will not go as far as Megan’s Law in America, Gardaí will be allowed to disclose certain information about sex offenders living in the community.

The News of the World spearheaded a campaign to have Sarah's Law introduced in England following the murder of Sarah Payne by a known sex offender in 2000.
The News of the World spearheaded a campaign to have Sarah's Law introduced in England following the murder of Sarah Payne by a known sex offender in 2000.

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE Alan Shatter is to introduce legislation so parents of young children can be made aware of sex offenders living in their areas.

The Department of Justice confirmed the Minister’s intentions to allow Gardaí to release certain information about sex offenders who have completed their sentences.

In a statement, the Department said that authorities will be able to warn individuals of a particular danger and respond to specific requests.

The proposed legislation changes are subject to Government approval but the Irish Daily Mail reveals that the plans have already been given a cautious welcome by Fianna Fáil and the Rape Crisis Centre.

Megan’s Law

Megan’s Law was introduced in the US in 2004 after seven-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender in New Jersey. She had been living on the same street as her murderer Jesse Timmendequas.

The legislation requires police to make information about registered sex offenders public. Details released usually include the convict’s photograph, address and the nature of the crime. The information is often passed around neighbourhoods through pamphlets or newspapers.

Similar legislation was called for in the UK following the murder of Sarah Payne in July 2000. Sarah’s Law was implemented on a trial basis in four different areas of Wales and England in 2008 and was brought in fully in the spring of this year.

The law allows for certain information about sex offenders to be made public but exact addresses or photographs are not given out.

The Department of Justice told TheJournal.ie that the idea of introducing a version of Megan’s Law was raised in a 2009 discussion document on the management of sex offenders.

However, Shatter’s proposed legislation will not go as far as Megan’s Law, which has been criticised for leading to vigilante violence against the convicted sex offenders.

In fact, it will be more in line with what has been introduced in the UK.

Following consultations and forms, the Department said publishing the addresses of sex offenders would be counter productive and could drive sex offenders underground. This would mean they are more difficult to monitor and more likely to re-offend.

“There was, however, support for the view that those with a legitimate interest should receive appropriate information and, if there was a danger to the public, the Gardaí should be able to make the identity of a sex offender known,” the Department added.

At the moment, Gardaí can provide information to the public in “exceptional circumstances” but the Minister intends to put such disclosures on a “statutory footing”.

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