Named and shamed: Should parents be told the identity of convicted child sex offenders?

A version of Sarah's law is due to be introduced in this government's lifetime

Named and shamed: Should parents be told the identity of convicted child sex offenders?

The Dublin home where convicted paedophile Anthony Luckwill lived now lies empty | Photo: Kieran Cuddihy

“He should go down into the sea. That’s where he should go. He doesn’t belong here. He doesn’t belong anywhere.”

A  man speaks for what appears to be many residents in Rathcoole, Co Dublin, after a convicted paedophile living near a local primary school was forced out of his home. 

Anthony Luckwill was allegedly beaten by locals and escorted by gardaí out of the property he was staying in, which was later set on fire.

Luckwill, who is on the sex offenders’ register in both Ireland and the UK, was jailed for four-and-a-half years in 2013 after pretending to be a casting agent to lure and abuse two teenagers.

The Dublin native was released after serving two years and nine months of his sentence and later moved to Rathcoole.

And locals told Newstalk Breakfast reporter Kieran Cuddidy that he was not welcome in the area.

The house where Luckwill stayed shares a back wall a school playground and a side wall with a scouts | Photo: Kieran Cuddihy

News of Luckwill's presence had spread after a local football club and school wrote to parents to advise them of who he was and where he was living.

But the government has committed to introducing legislation that would officially give parents the right to access the name and address of offenders living in their communities.

Under current laws, convicted sex offenders are required to tell gardaí where they live.  

The Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill will go a step further by allowing gardaí to pass on details about offenders to individual parents where public safety concerns are believed to exist.

The proposed legislation is similar to Sarah’s law in the UK, where child sex offenders can be identified to concerned parents and guardians.

The bill is not expected to go as far as Megan’s law in the US, which requires police to make information about registered offenders public.

US President Bill Clinton signs Megan's law, named after a seven-year-old girl who was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender in New Jersey | Photo: PA Images

The Department of Justice told Newstalk Breakfast: “The disclosure may be made where the offender poses a threat of committing a sexual offence and shall only be made to the minimum number of persons necessary to avoid such threat.

“Before a disclosure is made, and where it is possible, the offender shall be informed of the intention to make the disclosure. The disclosure will not be made if the person agrees to act so that the threat no longer exists.”

The circumstances in which information is made available will vary but disclosures could be made to individual parents who enter into a relationship with a convicted offender, for example.

While broadly welcoming the move, the Irish Penal Reform Trust has expressed concern that naming and shaming sex offenders could drive them underground.

“The big risk is that this type of widespread disclosure may in fact be counter-productive,” executive director  Deirdre Malone said.

“Through fear of community retaliation, offenders can disappear, move underground. They may not notify gardaí of their new address for fear of [vigilantism].”

A timeframe for the bill's introduction has not yet been finalised, but a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said the legislation is a priority for Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.