New bill to address issue of sex offender character references given in Irish courts – Chambers
10 February 2022
Fianna Fáil Senator Lisa Chambers is co-sponsoring a bill with Senator Regina Doherty and Senator Pauline O’Reilly that proposes sex offender character references be given under oath in Irish courts and will allow the prosecution and the victim to test and question those character references. It will also provide for legal representation for the victim at this point.
Senator Chambers commented, “The purpose of this bill is to increase and improve the information available to the court at the time that a convicted sex offender is before the court for sentencing. This in turn will better ensure that the rights of a victim not to be re-traumatised by the court experience.
“Currently as it stands, once a person is convicted of rapeor a serious sexual assault, they can have members of the community, family, friends, local business people, priests, GAA member and others, come before the sentencing judge and attest to their good character. I think many people find this disturbing given the person before the judge has just been convicted and found guilty of very serious sexual crime. Worse still the victim has to listen to this and has no way of questioning what is being said, which we know further victimises and re-traumatises them.
“We hope to give a greater voice to the victim but we also want to send a message to anyone that intends to give such a character reference for a person convicted or rape or sexual assault, that it won’t be a free pass and you may very well be tested and questioned on what you say. I hope this might make some people think twice before they take the stand to offer such a reference.
“I want to pay tribute to Senator Regina Doherty for all her work on bringing forward this bill. I look forward to supporting the bill as it passes through the Seanad.”