14 February 2017 

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality,  Frances Fitzgerald TD this evening welcomed the passage of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 through both Houses of the Oireachtas.  

Speaking this evening the Tánaiste said –  

‘This is one of the most comprehensive and wide ranging piece of sexual offences legislation ever to be introduced and has been a priority for me as Minister for Justice and Equality. It is an essential piece of legislation that brings additional protections to some of the most vulnerable people in our community. It contains the right laws for these times, laws that will protect victims of the most vicious and depraved crimes. 

The provisions of this Bill enhance and update laws to combat the sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children. It widens the range of offences associated with child pornography to ensure that no one who participates in any way in the creation, distribution, viewing or sharing of such abhorrent material can escape the law.  

Also, the Bill provides greater clarity in relation to the definition of sexual consent for the first time.’  

The Bill contains:   

· New criminal offences to protect children against grooming;  

· New measures to protect children from online predators;   

· New and strengthened offences to tackle child pornography;  

· New provisions to be introduced regarding evidence by victims, particularly children;  

· New offences addressing public indecency;  

· A provision in relation to harassment Orders to protect victims of convicted sex offenders;  

· Provisions maintaining the age of consent to sexual activity at 17 years of age and for a new “proximity of age” defence;  

· A provision to criminalise the purchase of sexual services.  

· A statutory statement of the law as regards consent to sexual acts  

Concluding, the Tánaiste said, ‘I would like to acknowledge the support and invaluable contributions from my parliamentary colleagues and from civic society, in particular from those people and organisations who made submissions and representations to me and my Department.’  

This Bill brings Irish law into line with a number of international legal instruments and implements the recommendations of a number of Oireachtas committees.