Bill Closes Loopholes Exposing Children to Online Abusers
Monday, 3 October 2016: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A landmark seminar on the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 will be hosted today by the Children’s Rights Alliance (Irish Architectural Archive, Dublin). This is timely as the Bill is to be discussed in the Dáil this coming week. The event will be opened by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, TD, with a keynote speech from Prof. Geoffrey Shannon, Special Rapporteur on Child Protection and Founding Patron of the Children’s Rights Alliance. Other expert contributors include Noeline Blackwell (Dublin Rape Crisis Centre), Grainia Long (ISPCC) and Tanya Ward (Children’s Rights Alliance).
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, says: “Sexual abuse has a devastating impact on children and ruins lives. Children in Ireland today are at risk of sexual abuse because the law is outdated. This allows predators to exploit legal loopholes to abuse children as well as take advantage of rapid technological advancements that are not catered for in law. This Bill helps protect children from sexual abuse, as well as closes many of the gaps that abusers use to lure and groom children.
Children in Ireland are spending more and more time online. The vast majority is active online with 86% of 9-year-olds having a computer at home and 82% of teenagers having social networking profiles. Children here use the internet more than their European counterparts and increasingly use private space or private personal devices to get online. Many parents often are unaware of what their children are viewing and many young people are using online methods to socialise and meet people for the first time.
The Bill helps to address many of the current gaps in the law, including:
- Grooming: The Bill strengthens our laws on grooming or ‘priming’ a child for sexual abuse to include more scenarios and situations. This includes criminalising any communication with a child on the internet, mobile phone or social media for sexual exploitation through technology. It also criminalises sending sexually explicit or pornographic material to a child. This is a very welcome and necessary development.
- Child Pornography:At present images of child pornography must be downloaded to be an offence but the Bill criminalises viewing alone. The legislation also expands the definition of child pornography to include computer generated images. That’s very important because even though a child might not have been directly harmed by producing it, it still creates demand among abusers and that has to be stopped. There can be no loopholes.
- Child Prostitution:The Bill extends our laws against child prostitution to ensure that all aspects of this harmful industry are criminalised including the controlling/directing child prostitution, and compelling, coercing or recruiting a child into child prostitution.
- Child Victims: The Bill provides certain protections for child witnesses giving evidence in court, including through the giving of evidence behind a screen. However, the Bill could be strengthened further by ensuring that child witnesses only have to give evidence through communication technologies, such as video link.
There is no doubt that this Bill expands our laws to equip our Gardaí and the Director of Public Prosecutions with the legal powers to investigate and prosecute sexual offences against children. The Children’s Rights Alliance is calling on Government and members of the Oireachtas to prioritise this Bill in the coming term to make sure no legal loopholes exposing children and young people remain.”
For further information please contact:
Emma McKinley, Communications and Development Manager
Tel: 01 662 9400 / 087 6559067
Note for Editors:
- Advancing Children’s Rights through the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 takes place on Monday, 3 October 2016 from 11:00am to 1:00pm in the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square East, Dublin 2.
- Statistics on internet safety are taken from EU Kids Online Final Report (2011) by Livingstone, S., Haddon, L., Gorzig, A., & Ólafsson, K.