Minister Shatter to prepare legislation to strengthen child protection

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, today published the Scheme of a Bill to create a criminal offence of withholding information relating to the commission of arrestable offences, including sexual offences, against a child or a vulnerable adult.  The Government has approved the drafting of the Bill as a matter of priority.  Drafting is already at an advanced stage. 

Under this legislation, a person will be guilty of an offence if he or she knows that an arrestable offence has been committed against a child or vulnerable adult, has information that would be of material assistance and fails without reasonable excuse to disclose that information as soon as it is practicable to a member of the Garda Síochána.  The legislation will also include safeguarding provisions to ensure that the person who is the victim of the offence or any person under 18 or who is a vulnerable adult cannot be prosecuted with the offence of withholding information.  "Arrestable offence" means an offence which may be punished by imprisonment for a term of five years or more. 

The Minister expects this Bill to be particularly useful in ensuring that serious offences against children will be reported to the Gardaí for investigation.  It is his intention to have this legislation enacted as a matter of urgency, with the co-operation of both Houses of the Oireachtas.

13 July, 2011

ENDS

Criminal Justice (Withholding Information on Crimes against Children and Vulnerable Adults) Bill 2011


DRAFT GENERAL SCHEME


JULY 2011
ARRANGEMENT OF HEADS


Head

1. Interpretation

2. Short title

3. Withholding information


Head 1. Interpretation

1.___ In this Act -
"child" means a person who has not attained 18 years of age;
"sexual offence" means an offence which satisfies both of the following conditions:
(a) it is an offence for which a person of full age and capacity and not previously convicted may be punished by imprisonment for a term of 5 years or more; and
(b) it is a sexual offence [for the purpose of/within the meaning of] the Sex Offenders Act 2001;
"arrestable offence" means an offence, including a sexual offence,  which is an offence for which a person of full age and capacity and not previously convicted may be punished by imprisonment for a term of five years or more.
"vulnerable adult" means a person of 18 years and older who does not have legal mental capacity or who is suffering from a physical, intellectual or mental impairment, whether through disability, injury, illness or age, which is of such a nature or degree as to render a person;
a) unable to guard against neglect, abuse or exploitation
or
b) to require assistance with the activities of daily living such as washing, dressing, toileting or feeding.

Head 2. Short title

To provide –

This Act may be known as the Criminal Justice (Withholding Information on Crimes against Children and Vulnerable Adults) Act 2011.

Head 3. Withholding Information

(1) Subject to subsection (2) and (3), a person shall be guilty of an offence if he or she knows or believes that:

(a) an arrestable offence has been committed against a child or against a vulnerable adult and

(b) he or she has information which might be of material assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of that person for that arrestable offence
and  he or she fails without reasonable excuse to disclose that information as soon as it is practicable to do so to a member of the Garda Síochána.

For the purposes of this section "reasonable excuse" may include circumstances where the person in respect of whom the sexual offence concerned was committed makes it known that he or she does not want that offence, or information relating to that offence, to be disclosed.


(2)  A person who is under 18 years of age or who is a vulnerable adult or who is the victim of the serious offence in question shall not be guilty of an offence under this section.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on conviction on indictment to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both.

ENDS