Victims of sex crimes could be given updated photographs of their offender after they are released from prison, the justice minister has said.
Helen McEntee said she would be willing to explore legislation that would allow a victim to access a picture of their attacker upon their release from jail.
Ms McEntee made the comments at the Justice Committee where TDs discussed the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill 2021.
Ms McEntee told the committee that it should be made clear to victims that they had a right to access information about the offender’s release from prison, but that it would be done under separate legislation.
Martin Kenny, Sinn Fein’s spokesman on justice, asked the minister whether victims could be given updated photographs and confirmation that the offender had been released.
“In terms of the photo, it’s something that I think, again, through the Victims of Crime Act we could look at,” Ms McEntee said.
“Obviously you don’t want a situation where you have Soram (Sex Offender Risk Assessment and Management) which is not necessarily equipped for dealing with victims as opposed to offenders, presenting someone with a photo if they haven’t asked for it or it’s not something that they required.
“But I do think if it’s something that a victim wants, if they asked for, then perhaps that could be an appropriate mechanism for them to receive that.
“So it’s something I’m happy to explore further to maybe look at it through the Victims of Crime Act, but only to do so where a victim wants it and it’s appropriate and they’ve asked for it.
“There are circumstances, obviously where a picture could be shared, if a member from An Garda Siochana has a concern that a person is in an area that they shouldn’t be or that there’s children nearby or that they are alerting someone to the fact that this person might be in your area, a photo can be shown but that is at the discretion of the guards.
“I think that’s something we need to explore further in the other legislation.”
Mr Kenny said victims should be directly contacted about their attacker’s release.
Currently victims are not informed automatically when an offender has been released from prison.
Mr Kenny said that was something that needed to be “examined”, adding that one person should be nominated as a contact point for the victim.
“And in the case where the offender has served their sentence and they are being released, that they will provide relevant information to the victim, including a notification of the release as soon as practicable after the release has occurred and a copy of updated photographs of the offender,” Mr Kenny added.
“And any other such information that is considered necessary to avoid or mitigate and manage the risk posed by the offender.
“I think we have all at different occasions come across circumstances where individuals have got the shock of their lives when they meet the person that had done them serious harm on the street or in the supermarket or wherever and were unaware that they were released.”
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