A loophole in the law that allows convicted sex offenders to change their names while in prison or after they are released results in “victim abuse,” an Oireachtas committee has been told.
Independent TD Denis Naughten told the Judiciary Committee that in the UK, convicted sex offenders were being surveyed to change their names and not notify the police.
“Certificate surveys to change the name of individuals are used to try to circumvent the sex offender registry [in the UK]. As sure as night follows day, Minister, if a vulnerability is exploited in Britain, the same vulnerability will be exploited here,” he said.
“The purpose of changing the name of a sex offender is to make it more difficult for members of the public or gardaí to actually track and monitor them.”
He gave the example of a convicted sex offender who changed his name five times over the course of 30 years — including while in prison.
“Sex offenders should not be allowed to change their names, they definitely should not be allowed to change their names while they are still in prison. This right should be revoked in the case of convicted criminals,” he said.
“If that happens, the authorities have a responsibility to inform the Gardaí of the case.
“This will lead to victim abuse in the future,” he said.
Justice Secretary Helen McEntee opposed Mr Naughten’s amendment to the Sex Offenders Act (Amendment) 2021, saying offenders who change their name and fail to notify the Gardaí are breaking the law.
“It is already a criminal offense to change your name without notifying An Garda Síochána,” she said.
“A Garda Síochána said that what is there is strong enough.
“Preventing someone from actually changing their name, that doesn’t work, they’ve already served their time and that applies to any other type of crime
“The only thing you can do is make sure that if you don’t notify or if the Gardaí don’t know about it, it’s a criminal offense and the penalty is obviously severe if someone breaks this order,” the minister added .
“If they don’t notify the gardaí, they are breaching their obligations.”
Mr Naughten said the sex offenders register was “careless”, “a joke” and “just a register in the name”. He said Gardaí identify at least one person per week who is violating the terms of the register.
“We’re talking about people who aren’t very abiding by the conditions that were imposed on them after detention,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s good enough that we leave the blame on the convicted sex offender.”
He said the Courts Service should check if sex offenders have changed their names and notify the Gardaí.
https://www.independent.ie/news/loophole-allowing-sex-offenders-to-change-their-names-will-lead-to-abuse-of-victims-warns-td-41590356.html A loophole allowing sex offenders to change their names will lead to victim abuse, TD warns