New Draft Child Protection Legislation And New Standards For The Protection And Welfare Of Children

Author:Mr Edward Gleeson, Catherine Allen, Niall Michel, Brian Horkan and James Bardon
Profession:Mason Hayes & Curran

On 25 April, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter, T.D., announced the publication of the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Adults) Bill 2012. The Bill creates a criminal offence of withholding information in relation to serious specified offences committed against a child or vulnerable person. The offences specified include most sexual offences and offences such as assault causing harm, abduction, manslaughter or murder. The Bill will apply to the non-disclosure of information received after the Bill is enacted, even where it relates to something that happened before enactment. The Bill also outlines a number of potential defences, for example, where the victim has requested that the information would not be further disclosed, or where a person such as a parent, guardian or medical professional is acting in the interests of the health and well-being of the child or vulnerable person. The penalties for an offence of withholding information are set out in section 5 of the Bill and are related to the gravity of the offence concerning which information is withheld. A copy of the Bill is available here.

On the same date, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald, T.D., published the Heads of the Children First Bill, which will be sent to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children for consultation with key stakeholders to take place before the Bill is finalised. The purpose of the Bill is to put Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children on a statutory basis. The Heads of the Children First Bill strengthens the current Children First Guidance in three key areas:

Organisations covered by the legislation will have to ensure that they are safe places for children, and that they work in co-operation with the statutory authorities; Organisations and named professionals will have a statutory responsibility to report information about abuse or significant...

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