6/02/2006

McDowell should walk over Rape crisis

The rape crisis that has enveloped the state since the Supreme Court ruling should have lead to the sacking of Michael McDowell as Justice Minister. He was or should have been aware that this case was on the table since last October.



As Minister for Justice the buck stops with him. Had he be doing his job instead of trying to discredit journalists and constantly engaging in anti-Sinn Féin nonsense then perhaps a paedophile would not have been released back into Irish society.

The government is making a big mistake in rushing through a new Sexual Offences bill as this area of law needs to be carefully thought out and it needs input from all parties. It especially needs input from rape victims. They need to be part of the process and I do feel that an opportunity has been lost.

I understand that this loophole needs to be addressed but it didn't have to be handled like this. All the government had to do was to amend the 1935 act in order to admit a defence of honest and reasonable mistake. It then should have announced a wide ranging consultation on the issue and presented a coherent and thought out proposal to the Oireachtas when it was ready to do so.

There is nothing as dangerous as bad law.

The new Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2006 will restore the crime of statutory rape and also applies an age of consent of 17 applicable to both males and females.

Defilement of child under 15 years of age...

Section 2.

(1) Any person who engages in a sexual act with a child who is under the age of 15 years shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life or a lesser term of imprisonment.

(2) Any person who attempts to engage in a sexual act with a child who is under the age of 15 years shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life or a lesser term of imprisonment.

(3) It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that he or she honestly believed that, at the time of the alleged commission of the offence, the child against whom the offence is alleged to have been committed had attained the age of 15 years.

(4) Where, in proceedings for an offence under this section, it falls to the court to consider whether the defendant honestly believed that, at the time of the alleged commission had attained the age of 15 years, the court shall have regard to the presence or absence of reasonably grounds for the defendant’s so believing and all other relevant circumstances.

(5) It shall not be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that the child against whom the offence is alleged to have been committed consented to the sexual act of which the offence consisted.

There has however been a raft of criticism from opposition parties over section 5 of the bill on the grounds that it is discriminatory against boys.

Section 5. A female child under the age of 17 years shall not be guilty of an offence under this Act by reason only of her engaging in an act of sexual intercourse.

The Justice Minister agreed that it was discriminatory. But he said there was a social motive behind it, to discourage young people, especially males, from teenage sex while not victimising motherhood of young girls.

While I welcome the fact that Ireland has departed from the old law of just making a man prove that he made an honest mistake to also including a test of reasonableness this law is none the less sloppy and rushed.

McDowell should be sacked from office but given the lack of credibility that this government has I will not be holding my breathe waiting for his resignation speech.

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