Government accepts Bill to close 21-year-old incest loophole

In Families by Denis Naughten

Denis Naughten TD has welcomed the Government’s decision to accept his legislation to close off a 21-year-old legal loophole which allows women a far more lenient sentence than men when convicted of incest.

The new law, the Criminal Law (Incest) (Amendment) Bill 2012, addresses the loophole by ensuring equality of treatment in sentencing in incest cases.

The Bill proposes to increase the maximum sentence available to judges in respect of females to a term of life imprisonment so that the law no longer makes an irrational distinction between male and female perpetrators of such horrific offences.

Deputy Naughten published this law two years ago after it became clear that the Department of Justice was not expediting laws to close off the loophole which came to light in 2009. At that time a woman was sentenced in Roscommon Circuit Court becoming the first woman in the history of the Irish state to be convicted of incest.

At that time she could only be sentenced to a maximum of seven years because the 106-year-old law had not been updated when it came to the sentencing of a woman.

“I’m disappointed that the Government intends to drag out the enactment of this law by incorporating it into the forthcoming Criminal Justice Sexual Offences Bill soon to be published by the Minister for Justice,” stated Denis Naughten.

“I believe that five years is far too long to wait for this loophole to be closed off. However I will work closely with the Justice Minister, Alan Shatter TD, to have this law enacted as soon as possible.

“We owe it to the children at the centre of the Roscommon case to ensure that their courage and bravery is recognised. No other family should be failed by the State again to the extent that they were and that is the reasoning behind this Bill.

“We must ensure that through our laws we protect those who are most vulnerable in our society – our children and all victims of such horrific crimes,” concluded Denis Naughten.