Criminal Justice (Withholding Information on Crimes against Children and Vulnerable Adults) Bill 2011
The OCO submitted its views on the Bill to the Department of Justice and Equality in October 2011. Read our Advice on the Criminal Justice (Withholding Information on Crimes against Children and Vulnerable Adults) Bill 2011. Read our updated June 2012 advice here the Heads of the Children First Bill 2012 & the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012
Spent Convictions Bill, 2007
The Spent Convictions Bill was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill in October 2007 and was subsequently taken over by the Government. It provides for relieving certain qualified persons of the obligation to disclose convictions for specified offences, following a prescribed rehabilitation period.
The original text of the Bill was referred to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office for its consideration in January 2008 by the Department of Justice and Equality, with the OCO submitting its views on the Bill that March. Having completed the second stage in Dáil Éireann and been amended significantly, the Bill was referred once again to the OCO in February 2009 for consideration in light of the revisions which had been incorporated into the text. The OCO submitted its supplementary advice on the Bill in June 2009.
The core issue in the Bill which arose with respect to the rights of children and young
people was that of child protection. In its initial observations, the OCO drew attention to the issues of which sentences are to be excluded, which employments are to be excluded, and the relationship between spent convictions and the vetting system. While some of the OCO’s concerns with regard to excluded employments (those for which individuals are never relieved of the obligation to disclose previous convictions, even if they satisfy the general criteria set out in the Spent Convictions Bill) were reflected in the amended Bill, others were not. The OCO’s supplementary advice on the Bill of June 2009 highlighted those outstanding issues, as well as indicating how the Bill’s provisions regarding the definition of excluded sentences and the operation of the Garda Vetting Unit could be enhanced.
Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2006
In 2006, the Government referred the draft legislative proposal, Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill, 2006. The Bill was drafted to fill a legislative gap resulting from the decision of the Supreme Court to strike down as unconstitutional a provision of the existing ‘statutory rape’ legislation. That legislation had criminalised sexual relations with girls under the age of 17 years and allowed no provision for a defence of reasonable mistake as to age in respect of girls under the age of 15.
The decision of the Supreme Court, in what became know as the CC case, led to much public outcry and the swift enactment of the replacement Bill. The implications for children arising from this legislative action were of concern to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office. The provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child guided our advice on the Bill. In that advice, the Ombudsman welcomed certain aspects of the Bill such as the provision to extend protection from exploitation to boys – the previous legislation enacted in 1935 protected girls only. However, Emily Logan also raised a number of concerns including the possibility that children could be prosecuted under the terms of the new bill; that child victims might be subjected to damaging court proceedings; and that a provision extending immunity from prosecution to girls was discriminatory against boys. This advice on the Bill was submitted to Government on 1 June 2006.
General Scheme of Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons & Sexual Offences) Bill
The General Scheme of the Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill was referred to the Office by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform pursuant to Section 7(4) of the Ombudsman for Children Act, 2002.
The Ombudsman for Children submitted her comments on the Bill to the Minister for
Justice, Equality and Law Reform in May 2007. This very significant Bill was designed to ensure compliance with a number of key international instruments relevant to trafficking and sexual offences against children (including the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Pornography, the UN Palermo Protocol on Trafficking and the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings).
While the Bill largely satisfied Ireland's international obligations in relation to enabling the authorities to prosecute traffickers, the OCO pointed out that it did not adequately take into account the particular vulnerability of child victims and provide for their needs.