27 March 2017
The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald today signed an Order commencing certain provisions of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 with effect from today.
The Tánaiste said:
“New laws contained in the landmark Sexual Offences Act take effect from today (Monday).
“The new offences relating to child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse are significant steps forward in strengthening our laws, In particular the Act introduces a specific offence relating to the use of information and communications technology to facilitate the sexual exploitation of a child.
“The offence includes communicating, via ICT, with a child for the purpose of the sexual exploitation of that child and also the sending of sexually explicit material to a child and thereby targets online sexual grooming of children.
“There are new and strengthened offences relating to child pornography. Among these is an offence of attending a live pornographic performance involving a child, including attendance via the use of information and communication technology.
“Offences concerning sexual acts with under age children have also been restated and strengthened in this Act. However, the Act also recognises the reality of under age, consensual, peer relationships through the introduction of a ‘proximity of age’ defence. Under this provision, a person charged with an offence of engaging in a sexual act with a person between the ages of 15 and 17 years can rely on a defence where the act is consensual, non-exploitative and the age difference is no more than two years.
“A statutory statement of consent to a sexual act is included in this Act. Not only does this bring Irish legislation into law with other common law jurisdictions, but the provision reflects the experience in terms of issues that arise at the trial of these cases. Consent is at the heart of every lawful sexual act and the clarity brought to the issue in this Act reinforces that fact.
“The provisions which will take effect today (Monday) will also target the demand for prostitution. I am absolutely convinced that this is key in targeting the wider exploitation associated with prostitution, including the trafficking of persons for the purpose of prostitution.
“This Act identifies those most vulnerable to sexual exploitation and it targets those who take advantage of that vulnerability.
Note to Editors:
The Tánaiste signed an Order commencing certain provisions of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 with effect from Monday 27 March 2017. This initial commencement includes all new offences relating to the sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children. These include the new offences of child sexual grooming including the use of information and communications technology to facilitate such activity.
New offences relating to the sexual exploitation of persons with disabilities where the nature of that disability is such as to render the individual incapable of consenting to a sexual act are also being introduced and will replace the existing offence under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 relating to the protection of mentally impaired persons.
Also to be commenced with effect from Monday 27 March are the new offences targeting the demand for sexual services through prostitution. These new provisions also see those who provide sexual services through prostitution decriminalised from existing offences.
A new offence of exposure and offensive conduct of a sexual nature updates existing laws on public indecency. The new offence will bring clarity and strengthen the law in this area.
The Act also introduces a statutory definition of ‘consent’ to a sexual act. The introduction of this statutory definition of consent to a sexual act brings Ireland into line with other common law jurisdictions but moreover provides a clear statement of the circumstances in which consent would not be given. This is a welcome statement of the existing legal position and one which provides much needed clarity.
The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 was signed on 22 February 2017. This Order will take effect from Monday 27 March 2017.
Sections proposed for initial commencement
It is proposed to initially commence Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and most of Part 8.
Specifically, the provisions being commenced are:
Part 1 (sections 1 and 2): Short title, commencement and interpretation provisions of the Act.
Part 2 (sections 3 to 19): Offences relating to the sexual exploitation of children, including new offences targeting online child sexual grooming.
Part 3 (sections 20 to 24): Offences relating to sexual acts with protected persons, which introduce new offences relating to sexual acts with persons with disabilities of a certain nature and repeals the existing offence under section 5 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 relating to the protection of mentally impaired persons.
Part 4 (sections 25 to 27): Criminalises the purchase of sexual services in the context of prostitution while removing those who provide sexual services through prostitution from the existing offences of soliciting or loitering for the purpose of prostitution. A statutory review of Part 4 after 3 years is also included.
Part 7 (sections 41 to 44): This Part extends jurisdiction over offences done outside the State by citizens of the State and by persons ordinarily resident in the State where the offence involves sexual acts with children and persons with certain disabilities. Jurisdiction is extended to the new offences created under this Act.
It is also proposed to commence the following sections of Part 8:
section 45: new offence of exposure and offensive conduct of a sexual nature.
section 48: definition of consent to a sexual act.
section 49: amendment to Children Act 2001 so that for the purpose of the offence of encouraging a sexual offence against a child under that Act, a child will be defined as being up to 18 years of age.
section 50: amendment to Bail Act 1997 to add the offences created under this Act to the Schedule to the 1997 Act. The Schedule to the 1997 Act specifies serious offences for the purpose of bail. Bail may be refused if it is considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence.
section 51(a) and (c): amends the Sex Offenders Act 2001 to include inherent conditions in post release supervision orders for sex offenders. The inherent conditions are to reside at a specified address and to abide by the lawful directions of a probation officer. The amendment to the 2001 Act also adds the new offences created by this Act to the Schedule to the 2001 Act for the purpose of the notification requirements under that Act.
sections 53 to 56: these sections amend a number of existing Acts by adding the new offences created under this Act to those Acts for the purpose of the provisions of those Acts. The Acts being amended are the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012, Taxi Regulation Act 2013, Children First Act 2015 and the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016.
section 57: provision for offences by bodies corporate.
The commencement of the remaining sections of the Act are subject to the introduction of various procedures, rules of court and the prescribing of certain forms. Work is ongoing to allow for the commencement of these provisions.
The Act can be accessed at https://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/acts/2017/a0217.pdf