Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

12.04 14 Nov 2019


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A solicitor says the laws around consent in Ireland are "unbelievably confused and complicated".

Dara Robinson, partner in the Dublin specialist law firm Sheehan and partners, spoke to Pat Kenny about the issue.

It comes as the Law Reform Commission is to review the age of consent as part of a wider review of sexual offences law.

The group's annual conference heard the age here is 'probably high' by European standards, and that the laws around it often overlap with different offences.

On today's Pat Kenny Show, Dara Robinson explained: "The very, very confused state of the law relating to sexual offences creates a multiplicity of offences, most of which overlap in one way or the other.

"The nearest thing to an age of consent is 17. Children are defined, following on from European law, for the most part as 18 - but sometimes its 14, sometimes its 15, sometimes its 16."

Giving an example of potential situations, he noted: "If you have two individuals of a like age, and they are over 17, and one of them is not in an exploitative or intimidatory relationship with the other - that's full on consent.

"If, on the other hand, you have an individual is 17, and a person in authority or in an intimidatory relationship who is over 18 has a relationship with them... that's a crime.

"Once you get over 18, everybody has the age of consent apart from a limited category of what are known as protected persons - who are deemed not to have mental capacity for consent in any circumstances."

In terms of prosecutions, he explained that it often comes down to the office of DPP about whether to proceed with particular cases.

He suggested: "It's unbelievably ad-hoc - they've never really got to grips with the consolidation of criminal offences.

"There was a Supreme Court case about two years ago on consent... so we thought consent was reasonably well cleared up.

"Then consent was redefined in the 2017 criminal and sexual offences act... and now the Law Reform Commission is talking about further reform to the law of consent. It's unbelievably confused and complicated."

Main image: File photo via Gillian Williamson/Zuma Press/PA Images

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