Sex offenders shouldn’t be able to scrub evidence of their crimes from the internet, or evade monitoring by changing their names.
That was the view of Galway TD Denis Naughten, speaking in the Daíl on the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill 2021.
Deputy Naughten said that, while the enhancement of monitoring and risk assessment of offenders is welcomed, there is also a “key inadequacy” in the law.
“The big weakness in this legislation is that it fails to address both analogue and digital rights to be forgotten by convicted sex offenders.”
He said that it is “completely unacceptable” that Google removes court reporting articles on people convicted of sexual offences, including men convicted of possessing child abuse material.
He said that the only standard Google seems to apply when considering requests to be forgotten is the length of time since articles were first published.
“The European Court of Justice decision in 2014 established the right to request that Internet search engines delist links containing information about them that is inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant or excessive.”
“I do not believe that information regarding sexual offenders falls under any of those four thresholds. It should not be tolerated.”
Denis Naughten also said that it is a “further abuse” of victims of sex crimes to “airbrush” away their stories.
Sex Offenders Register
The Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill 2021 is meant to improve the effectiveness of the Sex Offenders Register by strengthening
It reduces the period within which people convicted of sex crimes must notify Gardaí of their name and address, along with any change in their address, down to three days from the current seven day period.
It also gives Gardaí powers to take fingerprints, palm prints and photographs in certain circumstances, provides for risk assessment and management of offenders, as well as electronic monitoring and prohibiting them from working with children and vulnerable persons if needed.
In its current form the register is practically useless Denis Naughten had said recently, as convicted paedophiles can come to Ireland and travel at will without alerting Gardaí unless they are flagged at passport control.
He also raised concerns about criminals legally changing their name to evade monitoring by the police.
“There have been quite extensive reports in the United Kingdom where the use of deed polls has been abused by registered sex offenders to change their names, about which they do not inform the police authorities there or An Garda Síochána here, and they go under the radar again.”
While this is something that offenders are already required to report to the police, the current system doesn’t work, he added.
“As a result, people are literally disappearing off the radar by changing their names by deed poll and not informing An Garda Síochána.”
The Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill 2021 has passed the second stage Dáil reading, and has now been referred to the Committee stage for further debate and amendment.