Sexual Offences Act provides long overdue protection for children – Ombudsman for Children


The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, has welcomed the passing of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, saying that although it has not addressed all of the issues relating to children, it provides long overdue protections in many areas.

“The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act recognises new forms of sexual abuse and exploitation of children, including child grooming. It also introduces new protection measures for child complaints. These developments are a significant step forward in the protection of children’s rights and welfare.

“A safeguard against criminalisation of peer to peer consensual acts has been included, as has our recommendation to include the term ‘sexual act with a child’, rather than defilement. These changes were long overdue.

“I am however, somewhat disappointed at the inconsistencies in addressing the definition of a child within this piece of legislation.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) defines a child as a person under 18 years of age. However, in various sections of this act, a child is defined as a person under 15, under 17 and under 18.

“No explanation has been given as to why a child under 18 years is not, at all times, afforded the same protections as a child under the age of 15 or 17. Although 17 is the age of sexual consent, it is inappropriate to use this age for the purposes of defining the age of a child. I fear this will lead to future confusion and that it may have an impact in drafting other pieces of legislation relating to children.

“Though I feel this was a missed opportunity to definitively address inconsistencies in how we see children in legislation, I would like to commend the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, as well as all of those who have campaigned and contributed to this legislation. I have no doubt that overall it will have a positive impact on the welfare of children in Ireland.”



Aoife Carragher
Ombudsman for Children’s Office
087 148 4173/ 01 865 6800

Notes to Editor

  • The Ombudsman for Children’s Office is an independent statutory body with an overall mandate to promote the rights and welfare of children under the age of 18 living in Ireland.
  • Among the Ombudsman for Children’s core statutory functions is the independent and impartial investigation of complaints made by, or on behalf of, children in relation to public bodies, as well as organisations providing services on behalf of the State.