Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015: Report and Final Stages

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 6, line 14, to delete “child pornography” and substitute “child sexual abuse material“.

These amendments were also tabled on Committee Stage. As I have already articulated my views on this issue on Committee and Second Stage, I do not intend to be repetitive today. I appreciate that the amendments as drafted technically do not address everything that needs to be addressed, but I am strongly of the view that use of the phrase “child pornography” is abhorrent, and we need to be using it for the term that it is. The word “pornography” in some way implies that there is some consent. In the English dictionary in the mid-nineteenth century, the word was associated with terms such as “taboo” and “secretive,” but it has now become common parlance. For me, the words “child” and “pornography” should never be used together. We are clearly talking about child sexual abuse material relating to children who cannot and would not consent; they are victims of a crime. The child abuse images are documented evidence of a crime in progress, a child being sexually abused.

Similar to the amendments I tabled to the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990 in relation to assault, these amendments seek to positively change this legislation. Similar amendments have been accepted. Also, I note that the UK, through an amendment to its Serious Crime Act 2015, has amended its Sexual Offences Act 2003. The term used in the UK for both child prostitution and child pornography is “sexual exploitation of a child.” I want us to name this material for what it is. What I am seeking from the Minister today is a commitment that her Department will seek to rectify this balance.

As I said, I do not propose to reiterate the arguments I put forward on Committee and Second Stages. I believe that in Ireland we should have a system to filter all child abuse material, as happens in the UK and on our mobile phones, as mobile phone providers have signed up to an EU agreement in that regard. We should be automatically doing this work. I commend the work of the Internet Watch Foundation in the UK and hope we could have something similar here. The purpose of these amendments is to name this material for what it is, namely, child sexual abuse material. Interpol and Europol have asked us to call it what it is. They have asked us not to use the term “child pornography,” because it in some way diminishes the act. I ask that the Minister consider my proposals.

I move amendment No. 39:
In page 26, to delete lines 12 to 14 and substitute the following:
“(17)(a) This section and section 19B do not apply where a complainant or witness has expressly waived his or her right to non-disclosure of a relevant record without leave of the court.

(b) No complainant or witness shall be deemed to have expressly waived his or her right to non-disclosure unless he or she has been offered a reasonable opportunity to obtain independent legal advice on the issue of disclosure rights before he or she is asked to sign any document purporting to waive his or her right to non-disclosure of a relevant record without leave of the court.

(18) In addition to the provisions of this section, section 19B shall apply to a relevant record relating to a child.
19B.(1) In this section and in section 19A(18) ‘relevant record relating to a child’ means a relevant record (or part of such record) relating to a sexual offence or sexual offences alleged to have been committed in respect of a person who was, at the time of the offence, under the age of 18.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of section 19A, the content of a relevant record relating to a child shall not be disclosed to the accused and shall not be admissible as evidence in criminal proceedings save by order of the court and in compliance with the provisions of this section and section 19A.

(3) In determining an application for disclosure of a relevant record relating to a child, subject to the rules of the relevant court and in addition to the criteria set out in section 19A(9), the court shall take the following factors, in particular, into account:
(a) the extent to which the evidence contained in the relevant record relating to a child has substantial probative value;

(b) whether there is other evidence available to the accused that renders it substantially unnecessary to have regard to the relevant record relating to a child; and

(c) whether the public interest in disclosure or the constitutional and other rights of the accused person or both together outweigh the potential harm to the complainant.”.”.

I wish to raise an issue on third-party disclosures and I want to be clear from the outset that I welcome section 34. In June 2013, I tabled amendments to the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill concerning the disclosure of third-party records, namely, the counselling and therapy notes of child complainants in sexual offence trials. At that time, I expressed my deep concern regarding the issue of the court ordered disclosure of complainants’ confidential records by medical, psychiatric or therapeutic personnel, be the complainant an adult or a child, in the absence of any legislative guidelines. I am delighted to see the issue being addressed in the Bill and I support the approach taken to provide standards and guidance to the courts in determining whether to grant an order for the disclosure of a record in dispute.

I agree that an adequate balance has been struck between an adult complainant’s right to privacy and the right of the accused person to procedural fairness. However, upon further reflection in this regard, I have tabled an additional amendment – amendment No. 40 – which includes the same changes to sections 34(17)(a) and (b) as proposed in amendment No. 39, whereby the provisions of a new section 19A of the Act of 1992 would not apply where complainants or witnesses expressly waive their right to disclosure of a relevant record without leave of the court. I am sure the Minister fully acknowledges and sympathises with the vulnerability of a complainant or a witness during this time. My concern is that the right of a complainant or witness to advice or representation by the Legal Aid Board only kicks in where a decision has been made to prosecute. However, the point at which a complainant or witness is invited to waive his or her rights concerning disclosure often arises at a Garda station when a formal witness statement has been given. I suspect this happens without any real understanding of the implications should the matter proceed to trial. The amendment provides that any express waiver be made subject to independent legal advice or the offer of such advice. I know that the board, with its ample experience on the ground, is very supportive of the safeguard.
The purpose of the new section 19B is to act as an additional layer of protection for child complainants or witnesses in sexual offence trials who are uniquely vulnerable by virtue of their age and the heinousness of the abuse perpetrated against them. To understand the difficulty thrown up by an increasing number of blanket requests from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for disclosure of details of children’s private and confidential counselling sessions, it is important to understand that the therapeutic process happens in two distinct phases. The first phase is the compilation of an assessment report which records the baseline account – the who, what, where and when – of the abuse the child is alleging. It is clearly material evidence relevant to a criminal investigation in a trial and is rightly subject to disclosure.

The second phase is the therapy. The therapy notes are concerned with documenting the child’s feelings, thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams. If any information arises in the course of the therapy phase which substantively alters the account given in the assessment report, the practitioner will update the assessment report accordingly and make it available to the relevant parties. In effect, any information or material evidence relevant to a criminal investigation or trial for child sexual abuse is often disclosed as a matter of course. The remaining information contained in counselling records and therapeutic notes has no material relevance but it reflects the heart and soul of a damaged child and should not be subject to disclosure. There is a strongly held view on the part of many practitioners who specialise in assessment and therapy services for children who have been sexually abused that therapy notes should be privileged outright on the basis they are neither material evidence nor information relevant to legal proceedings. When one examines the purpose of therapy for children who have been sexually abused, what the therapy involves and, moreover, the arrangements the services have in place to manage the process, the rationale for affording such privilege is very strong. Therapy as a whole is not concerned with making judgments or assessing the veracity of what is shared in sessions. Rather, it is simply a particular type of human engagement where the exploration of a child’s thoughts and feelings at a particular point in time are facilitated. Therapy notes, in turn, are context specific. They derive out of a therapeutic encounter and as such are concerned with documenting feelings, thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams. They are not absolute facts. They are not material evidence.

Ultimately, the aim of therapy is to assist a child in getting back to a life that is not dominated by the sexual abuse he or she experienced and to equip the child to build trusting relationships. In doing so, the therapist will address patterns of behaviour or responses which have become unhelpful, burdensome or troubling in the child’s living experience. Therapy can also draw attention to healthy responses and coping strategies shown by the child in and out of sessions. This can involve the use of fantasy and therapeutic play scenarios, especially for younger children where the child can try out different roles in order to make sense of the abuse experienced. However helpful the process may be to the child, therapists are becoming increasingly concerned about how notes describing such a scene might be interpreted in a legal arena and taken out of context.

Trust in the therapeutic relationship and the creation of a safe space are paramount to the effectiveness and success of the therapeutic process. It is difficult to envisage how this can be achieved if the privacy and confidentiality of these therapy sessions are not sacrosanct. I argue that the effectiveness and success of the therapeutic process is an important part of the public interest consideration in restoring the child’s well-being and ability to function in society. The amendment is an added layer of protection to reflect the unique vulnerability of the child and the nature and type of information which comes through in the therapy process, as distinct from the material facts. Any additional relevant information is added as a matter of course to the assessment report.

I am acutely aware of the need to strike the proper and appropriate balance between the right of the accused to procedural fairness in a child sexual abuse case, the right of a child witness to privacy, as well as the right not to be revictimised or unduly traumatised by the criminal justice system, and the public interest. The amendment is wholly compatible with Irish constitutional law, Ireland’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and the best interests of the child in the context of providing in law that the disclosure of sexual assault counselling communications of children will only be granted by a trial court where the evidence sought has substantive probative value, where there is no other evidence which could prove the disputed facts and where the public interest in disclosure outweighs the potential harm to the child.As I stated, I would prefer to make these notes privileged and sacrosanct, but what I have done in the amendment in strive to strike the balance that needs to be there in law. I hope the Minister would look favourably on these amendments.

Full debate https://www.kildarestreet.com/sendebates/?id=2016-01-21a.178&s=jillian+van+turnhout#g190

10 October, 2013: Questions to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, for answer before the meeting of the Committee on Health and Children.

Question 9: U.N Committee on the rights of the Child report.

Question 10: Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Reports

Question 11 Youth work budget.

Question 9: U.N Committee on the rights of the Child report.

On 16 July 2013, Minister Fitzgerald advised that her Department had finalised and submitted to Government for approval Ireland’s consolidated Third and Fourth State Report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The submission of this Report, which is already considerably overdue (April 2009), are essential components of Ireland’s international obligation in relation to the review and monitoring process of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Can the Minister provide a definitive answer as to when Government approval will be secured and when the consolidated Reports will be furnished to the UN Committee?

The Government approved a consolidated 3rd and 4th Report in July 2013 and the report was submitted to the on the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, in August 2013.  The report is available on www.dcya.ie and outlines the most significant developments for children and how Ireland has been implementing the main aims of the UN Convention during the period 2006 to 2011 inclusive.

Ireland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992. Ireland submitted our second progress report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2005. Following the establishment of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in June 2011, I directed that a substantial progress report, combining the 3rd and 4th reports, to cover the period 2006 to 2011 inclusive should be submitted to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.  An Inter-Departmental Liaison Group was established to prepare the report and a draft of the report was completed in December 2012.  This draft report formed the basis of consultations with the NGO sector and subsequently the Children’s Rights Alliance, on behalf of the NGO sector, submitted its observations on the draft to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.  These observations were considered by my Department in conjunction with other Departments and a draft report prepared for consideration by Government.

With the Report’s submission now complete I look forward to attending a hearing of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on the report, although the timing of the hearing will be a matter for the UN Committee.  I understand there is currently a backlog of hearings to be dealt with by the Committee.  The hearing when it takes place will provide an opportunity to further bring the Committee up to date on what we have achieved as part of the programme of this Government since 2011.

Question 10: Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Reports

There have been a number of important Reports concerning children over the last number of years. Significant amongst them are the Fifth and Sixth Reports of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon. In each of these Reports, recommendations are outlined to Government to improve the experiences and lives of children in Ireland. In the interests of transparency and accountability, and indeed to facilitate the tracking of said recommendations, will the Minister consider adopting a formal response to the recommendations similar to Ireland’s response to the Working Group Report on the Universal Periodic Review, whereby indication is given to each recommendation as follows: examined and supported; to be examined and responded to in due time; not supported? And, will the Minister ensure that implementation mechanisms and timelines are developed and published as part of the formal response to each Report’s recommendations?

There have been a number of important reports concerning children published over the last number of years, among them are the reports of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection and, significantly, the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (referred to as the Ryan Report) published in May 2009. Currently the monitoring mechanisms vary between no formal mechanism, once off responses or annual monitoring.

The Special Rapporteur on Child Protection is appointed by the Government and his recommendations are relevant to a number of Government Departments and Agencies. The reports of the Child Protection Rapporteur are circulated to all relevant Departments and it is a matter for individual Departments to take the appropriate action on any recommendation relevant to its work. Where recommendations are proper to the DCYA they form part of the process of policy development and, if appropriate, are incorporated within the Department’s business planning process.

The most formal response to a report is that of the Implementation Plan in response to the Ryan Commission Report, which was published in July 2009. The Plan sets out a series of 99 actions to address the recommendations in the Ryan Report, and includes additional proposals considered essential to further improve services to children in care, in detention and at risk. The Government committed to implementation of the Plan. The 99 actions identified in the Implementation Plan are the responsibility of a number of Government Departments and Agencies.  I, as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, have had the responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the actions set out in the plan.  I chair a high level monitoring group with representation from the Department of Education and Skills, the Irish Youth Justice Service, the HSE, the Gardaí, the Children’s Rights Alliance and my Department. Three Progress Reports have been published so far and the final Progress Report is due at the end of this year.

My Department is currently preparing a monitoring framework for higher level oversight of recommendations from all significant child care reports, which is intended to be put in place following the completion of the formal monitoring process for the Ryan Commission Implementation Plan. In this regard the intention is to review current monitoring and reporting mechanisms, with a view to capturing all relevant recommendations and streamlining progress reporting, to provide effective and sustained implementation of recommendations.

My Department has also commissioned independent research on the extent to which previous reports have influenced policy and practice.  This research also identifies learning as to how to improve the influence and usefulness of recommendations made in such reports.  It is my intention to publish this research as I believe it will be of general interest and particularly useful to anyone engaged in conducting reviews or investigations in the future.

Question 11 Youth work budget.

 To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to share with the Committee the discussions her Department had with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform concerning the budget for youth work in the next round of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure from 2015-2017. Did the Minster emphasise the disproportionate cuts to youth work in the overall budget adjustments for her Department in the last round from 2012-2014, and also will the Minister give details of when youth work organisations will receive details of funding for 2014 following the budget on October 15th?

 Officials of my Department have met with representatives of all the national organisations that are funded under the Youth Service Grant Scheme to share information and to hear from the organisations about the impact of the reductions in funding on the services that they provide. I have met with and continue to meet with, many youth projects and groups to try and see how we can work together to minimise the impact of these necessary savings in order to ensure that the provision of quality youth services to young people is sustained in these challenging times.

 Funding requirements and how resources should be prioritised and allocated across each area of Government spending are generally considered as part of the annual estimates cycle and budgetary process.  I am sure the Senator will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time on any decisions that may be taken by Government in the context of Budget 2014.  The Committee can be assured that the benefits of youth work have been fully considered as part of my Department’s input to Budget 2014.  As soon as Budgetary figures are available my Department will assess the implications for youth funding and engage with the sector in planning the approach to 2014.  It would be my hope that the earlier timing of the Budget will allow for the notification of allocations to be brought forward so that they can take place prior to the commencement of the year.

Directive of European Parliament on Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children: Statements

Thursday, 19th September 2013

I too welcome the Minister to the House and thank him for his comprehensive presentation on the EU directive. I could say a lot on issues related to the directive, but I intend to focus on article 25 which relates to child abuse material online. I welcome the commitments the Minister has given this morning. Among the wide-ranging provisions relating to criminal offences and sanctions in the area of sexual abuse and exploitation of children, the directive requires all member states to take the necessary measures to ensure the prompt removal of any web pages containing or disseminating child abuse material hosted on servers within their jurisdiction. It also asks member states to make appropriate safeguards to block access for Internet users within their territory of web pages containing or disseminating child abuse material hosted on servers outside of their jurisdiction.

I do not know whether the Minister’s comprehensive presentation is a sign of things to come, but I feel the Seanad’s role has been airbrushed out of it. In February 2012 we had an Independent group motion on the EU directive and the need for Ireland to block sites. At the time, I was delighted my colleagues, among them Senators Mary Ann O’Brien, Fiach Mac Conghail, Katherine Zappone, Marie-Louise O’Donnell and probably every Senator in the House, supported the motion calling for a blocking of sites. We took the Minister’s word that he would consider that, even though we knew at the time the ISPs and some officials did not agree with us on the need to block them. I welcome the moves being made now, but I wish to acknowledge the role of the Seanad in calling for this.

I have produced a report on effective strategies to tackle online child abuse material which is published today and I will be happy to present the Minister with a copy of it. Often we are told that blocking does not really work, that we will not get rid of it all and that we should not be naive. Would the Minister say the same to drug traffickers or suggest that we should just remove customs and borders because drugs get into the country anyway? We must put a deterrent in place to block this material. I am not living in some naive world where I believe that implementing the directive will solve the issue, but implementing it will act as a deterrent and will ensure that average citizens will not come across such material accidentally, as they do currently.

I welcome the commitment given, but I would like to see greater urgency attached to it. I was disappointed to see in the legislative programme that the criminal law (sexual offences) Bill is still under section C, which means that publication is not expected until 2014. The Minister for Justice and Equality will know that I have a long list of issues he has promised the Bill will cover and other colleagues have other issues. However, there is a problem with regard to the proliferation of child abuse material on the Internet and this is a stain on our moral conscience. I am very concerned by this and that is the reason I commissioned the report I did, in which I go through the options for Ireland and what needs to be done.

We need to think about the victim profile. Many Members attended an extraordinary briefing we received in 2012, before we moved our group motion in the Seanad. Pat McKenna of ChildWatch and Michael Moran, assistant director of Interpol’s directorate dealing with trafficking of human beings briefed us at that meeting and provided us with startling figures. When they examined some of the images in question, some 74% of the victims appeared to be ten years of age or younger. We heard of images of children with their umbilical cord still attached. The prevalence is moving towards children who cannot yet speak, because they cannot articulate what is happening to them. The images and pictures we are talking about are horrendous. They are a crime scene.

Another problem is the offender profile. Some 70% of the offenders are aged between 21 and 50. Some 59% are likely to be married, 41% are likely to have children and 33% are physically abusive in other aspects of their lives. What we were told at the briefing stays with me. We were told that the average person who comes across this trade accidentally is horrified and walks away from the computer. However, within a week, many will go back to the computer and start looking for more images. These images are not traded in money, but in images, so what will one do when one wants to be king of the pack but create one’s own images. We must introduce a blocking system. This problem affects Irish children and children worldwide.

I have been very affected by some of the stories of children who have been abused. I cannot understand the reason behind many crimes, but I can nearly understand murder, although I do not condone it. However, I cannot understand child abuse. I cannot get my head around why people would do it. In the case of this kind of child abuse we have victims who find out that their images are proliferated across the world and that their own country will not block these images. We must ensure we have a blocking system in place.

The Minister mentioned a hotline. I call it the lesser known hotline. It is great to have it, but it is not much use if it is not publicised and people do not know about it. To be honest, I believe the existence of the hotline can be used as a cover or excuse by the ISPs who can point to its existence. This is a bit like the issue of drink awareness, where people can point to MEAS and drinkaware.ie. We need a much more independent system.

The countries that already have filtering in place are Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, Netherlands, Finland, New Zealand, France, Malta, Australia and the UK, including Northern Ireland. All our mobile telephone providers across Europe have it. Therefore, I do not accept any arguments we hear about why we cannot do it.

I commend the Garda Síochána, Europol and Interpol, who are doing amazing work and I feel strongly that we need to support them.

Why is there not a greater urgency to transpose the directive? We should be doing so without delay. It is great that we have the EU directive. Let us put filtering in place. Self-regulation is not working. The Internet service providers, ISPs, are being dragged to the table.

A child abuse image is a crime scene. It is a digital record of some of the most monstrous crimes against children.

This is a question of protecting children from abuse. We must take action. I plead for greater urgency. We can undertake it discreetly and efficiently, a suggestion that I examined in my report.

Order of Business, 19 September 2013

Thursday, 19th September 2013

I support Senator O’Brien in his call for No. 2 to be discussed. It is something we should do to ensure any inquiry is as we intend it and as we would expect. Perhaps it cannot be facilitated today but if there were a commitment, I would be supportive of it.

I commend the French Senate, which yesterday banned beauty pageants for children under 16 years. In fact, it will impose prison sentences. This is about protecting childhood. Beauty pageants prematurely force children into roles of seduction that seriously harm their development. I am most disappointed to note that this weekend for the first time in Ireland there will be such a beauty pageant. It is not a welcome development. I wish to send a clear message that it should be cancelled and that we should not be having these types of beauty pageants in our country. We should be protecting childhood.

I thank the Leader for putting on the agenda for discussion today the EU directive on combatting the sexual abuse and exploitation of children and child pornography. As colleagues are aware, in February 2012 the Independent group put forward a comprehensive motion that dealt with the directive, but nothing has happened since. I welcome that it is on the agenda today. I have published in advance a report on effective strategies to tackle online child abuse material. We should remember that a child abuse image is a crime scene. It is a digital record of some of the most heinous crimes against children. This is about protecting real children from real abuse in the real world. I have copies of the report if colleagues would like to see it in advance of our discussion at 11.45 a.m. We should send a clear message to the Government that we need to ensure we have filtering in place to block online child abuse material. I thank the Leader for placing this matter on the agenda. However, we must do more than just discuss it.

Van Turnhout Calls for Increased Protection for Child Witnesses

Today, Wednesday 26 June 2013, Independent Senator and children’s rights activist, Jillian van Turnhout, has tabled a substantive amendment to the Courts Bill 2013 to introduce legal standards governing the disclosure of counselling communications and therapy notes of children in sexual abuse criminal proceedings.

“I am acutely aware of the need to strike the proper and appropriate balance between the right of child witnesses in child sexual abuse cases to privacy as well as their right not to be re-victimised or unduly traumatised by the criminal justice system, the right of the accused to procedural fairness, and the public interest. I believe my amendment has found this balance.”

The increasing commonality with which orders for disclosure, including counselling and therapeutic records, are made with respect to child witnesses, coupled with an absence of legislative guidelines and clear practice on the issue has lead Senator van Turnhout to seek this legislative solution:

“I believe with the legislative solution I am proposing, it is wholly compatible with Irish Constitutional law, Ireland’s obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights, and the best interests of the child to provide in law that the disclosure of sexual assault counselling communications will only granted by the trial court where: the evidence sought has substantive probative value; there is no other evidence which could prove the disputed facts; and the public interest in disclosure outweighs the potential harm to the child.”

The issue has never been subject to sustained analysis and consideration by the Superior Courts in Ireland or the Legislator. As such, today’s debate marks a significant juncture in the future alignment of these competing rights.

 

 

Order of Business, 29 May 2013

Wednesday, 29th May 2013

Anybody who had the opportunity to watch the RTE investigation unit’s broadcast of “A Breach of Trust” last night found it extremely difficult and disturbing. It was unimaginable for parents with children at the locations in question. I e-mailed the Cathaoirleach earlier this morning to invoke Standing Order 30. I seek the adjournment of the Seanad to deal with a motion on a specific and important matter of public interest that has arisen suddenly. Senators know their Standing Orders off by heart.

The reason I have invoked the Standing Order is that it allows for a debate of up to an hour and a half. All Senators have concerns about this issue. I had hoped in the lead-in to the “Prime Time” programme that what would be described would be once-off bad practice. Having watched the programme, however, I noted several instances of maltreatment and emotional abuse at the three locations. For me, it raised some serious child protection concerns. The researcher in each case had reported to management, but no action was taken. Obviously, the programme focused on specific crèches, on which there had been bad reports. A serious question must be asked. Why did it require an RTE investigation unit to expose what was happening?

There has been considerable debate about the quality of child care and investment in child care. We should also focus on child protection. I want to be assured that action will be taken by the HSE and the Garda, where appropriate. The HSE should publish the inspection reports without delay. We need to ensure child care places that have not been inspected within the past 12 months will be inspected immediately. The Children First Bill was launched in April 2012 and the Joint Committee on Health and Children considered the heads. The legislation needs to be published and enforced to ensure there will be a statutory obligation to report a child protection concern. We need to invest in workforce development. These are just starting points for debate. The HSE child and family services have answers to give to us, not just on quality assurance. For me, what has occurred is not good enough and is unacceptable. I hope we can have a debate on this matter of urgent public interest.

Order of Business, 23 April 2013

Tuesday, 23rd April 2013

At the weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Scouting Ireland delegate conference, which brought together 800 delegates representing 40,000 members. Two motions which were voted on will be of interest to the House. One was on Scouting Ireland’s fears the proposed sale of Coillte will threaten its open access policy. Unbeknownst to me until I arrived, another motion had been tabled calling on the Minister for Justice and Equality to enact legislation requiring ISPs operating in Ireland to block access to all child abuse material, as has been done in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Malta, Italy and Britain. I have raised this issue in the House and we have had a good discussion on it. Scouting Ireland voted unanimously on the motion. The Minister, Deputy Shatter, has committed that blocking will be fully considered in the context of the development of the planned sexual offences Bill. I am very concerned this Bill is scheduled for 2014. This is an urgent matter. It is about protecting real children from real abuse in the real world. I call on the Leader to convey to the Minister a request to bring forward a separate Bill to deal with this distinctly.

Today is the national day of action and raising public awareness on direct provision. I am disappointed and confused the Adjournment matter I addressed to the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, has been ruled out of order. Since the introduction of the Social Welfare and Pensions (No. 2) Act 2009, asylum seekers cannot ever be considered habitually resident in the State. Since access to most welfare payments, including supplementary welfare allowance, is now restricted to those habitually resident in the State, and since asylum seekers cannot be considered habitually resident, I asked what is the legislative basis for the continued accommodation and payments made to asylum seekers.

This is a question for the Minister for Social Protection. For example, the payment slips to asylum seekers refer to the Department of Social Protection. However, I take the Leader on his word that the Minister has no responsibility for this matter, even though the payment slips clearly state “Department of Social Protection”. I am now being directed back to the Department of Justice and Equality where I did not get an answer to this question last week, so I ask the Leader to arrange for a debate on direct provision. I have been moved from one Department to another on this issue, yet nobody is willing to take responsibility for it. I believe that we are operating outside a legislative basis with the payments. We need an answer to this question, rather than being shuttled between Departments.

Order of Business, 17 October 2012

I echo everything said in the Chamber this morning about St. Patrick’s Institution. There is a need for greater urgency because, as has been said, there are still 17 to 21 year olds detained at the institution. Therefore, the problem has not gone away. I ask for an update on the development of a detention school at a site located at Oberstown-Lusk. We need to ensure that when children are transferred, it is to a good location, as we do not repeat past mistakes. I listened to the debate. Several colleagues talked about the culture of those in charge at St. Patrick’s Institution and my comments made here last December were brought into sharp focus. I will not break privilege, but I am concerned. Why did we make the appointment to the committee on the prevention of torture? I am greatly concerned about who Ireland appointed to the committee and express my concern again today.

I support Senator Mark Daly’s call for a debate on the plight of the survivors of child abuse. I know the details of the case to which he referred. It involves an appalling injustice and is unacceptable. I have met the person mentioned for several years and can vouch for the fact that he is dying. When we bring him to Dublin to meet colleagues, I ask that Senators attend to demonstrate greater compassion.

Order of Business, 26 June 2012

I, too, welcome the publication of the consultation document on the criminalisation of the purchase of sex which I believe is the result of the motion the Independent group brought before the House on two occasions.

Last Friday, 22 June, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, signed a statutory order to remove section 11(1)(e)(iii) of the Ombudsman for Children Act which excluded children detained in St Patrick’s Institution from the complaints remit of the Ombudsman for Children, Ms Emily Logan. The order will take effect from 1 July. I warmly welcome this move which I do not believe received much publicity. Prior to this, children held in prison, children in the Defence Forces and children involved in dealings with the Garda were the only three groups of children excluded from the remit of the Ombudsman for Children.

However, there is an ombudsman in place for both the Defence Forces and the Garda. It followed from the announcement of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on 2 April that the detention of children in St Patrick’s Institution would end on 1 May for all newly remanded or sentenced 16 and 17 year olds. They will now be detained in Oberstown. These two measures mark significant progress in the treatment of juvenile offenders and the observance of children’s human rights. However, I am mindful of the fact that there is still no independent, fair and impartial complaints mechanism for adult prisoners. Concern has been expressed in this regard by both the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the inspector of prisons, Mr. Justice Michael Reilly, in his annual report for 2010.

In Mr. Justice Reilly’s report he refers to a deficiency, to be rectified by 1 July 2011, in the following of proper complaints procedures, with supporting documents. I look forward to seeing what progress, if any, is recorded in his next annual report. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Justice and Equality to the House to confirm when the annual report of the Office of the Inspector of Prisons for 2011 will be published. I understand it was sent to the Minister on 17 April. I ask that we have a debate on how best an independent, transparent and accountable prisoner complaints mechanism can be established in the prisons.

The Lancet

In July 2021, Jillian co-authored an article in the world-renowned medical journal “The Lancet”