1. New laws on Sexual Offences take effect from Monday - Fitzgerald

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 Monday 27 March 2017.  

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.