Sexual offences and the law which regulates sexual violence are a perennial topic of discussion amongst academics and criminal justice stakeholders who work in this area such as legal practitioners, members of the judiciary and those who represent the interests of survivors of sexual violence. Current areas of controversy in the area of sexual offences include concerns about sentencing, particularly in light of the recent sentences handed down in the trials of Anthony Lyons and Patrick O’Brien. Other causes of concern have been highlighted by the authors of this post previously on this blog. Dr. Margaret Fitzgerald-O’Reilly has recently written about the need for a reconsideration of the rules relating to the disclosure of information about sex offenders. Dr. Susan Leahy has also highlighted the problems relating to the substantive and procedural rules in this area and outlined reforms which it is hoped will be implemented in the near future. In light of all of these areas of concern, together with the promise of forthcoming Sexual Offences Bill, we are pleased to announce that the current edition the Irish Criminal Law Journal (Issue 4 of 2013) is a special edition which focuses on sexual offences. The special edition is edited by Dr. Susan Leahy and Dr. Margaret Fitzgerald-O’Reilly and contains five contributions from individuals who either research or work in the area of sexual offences and it is hoped it will contribute to the debate regarding change in this complex area of the law.
Dr. Susan Leahy has contributed an article entitled ‘Summing Up in Rape Trials: The Challenge of Guiding Effectively and without Prejudice’. This article addresses how trial judges might best direct jurors not to allow stereotypical attitudes about rape to affect their deliberations in rape trials. The dangers of misdirection in this situation are highlighted and mechanisms to ensure that trial judges can undertake the task of jury direction effectively are outlined.
Dr. Margaret Fitzgerald-O’Reilly writes about the ‘Post-Release Supervision of Sex Offenders’. This article assesses post-release supervision orders and explains the current means by which a court can impose such orders on foot of a conviction. The role of the agencies involved in the management of sex offenders in the community is discussed and recent developments in risk control of this category of offenders are examined.
Caroline Counihan (Legal Director, Rape Crisis Network of Ireland) writes about ‘Rape Crisis Network of Ireland Perspectives on Sexual Violence and the Criminal Justice System’. Written from the perspective of the RCNI and the survivors of sexual violence represented by this organisation, this piece considers both the perspective of victims regarding the current operation of the criminal justice system and outlines both legislative and non-legal interventions which might improve the experience of sexual offence complainants within the criminal justice system.
Lorraine Barron discusses information-sharing about sex offenders. Her article, ‘Tackling the Issue of Cross-Border Sexual Offenders in the Republic of Ireland and the EU’, considers how information is shared between Ireland and the UK, as well as current data protection measures which may impact on the way in which such information may be appropriately shared between jurisdictions.
Dr. Sinéad Ring examines historic child sexual abuse prohibition applications. Her contribution, entitled ‘Analysing Fairness in Context in Historic Child Sexual Abuse Prohibition Applications’, analyses the concept of fairness and how it is understood in the context of prohibition applications. Sinead argues that the case law in this area reveals two trends: one in which fairness is being marginalised and another in which is it given a contextualised meaning. Her analysis concludes with recommendations for reform of the test to be applied in prohibition applications in historic sex abuse cases.
As the foregoing synopses of the contributions illustrate, all of the articles in this special edition raise interesting questions about the current operation of sexual offences law and present some food-for-thought with regard to reform in this area. In this respect, a word of thanks is owed to the Irish Criminal Law Journal, particularly Paul Anthony McDermott BL and Terri McDonnell, for providing the platform for the authors to collectively contribute to current debates about Irish sexual offences law.