FINE Gael Cork Senator, Deirdre Clune, has welcomed the publication of a number of legislative measures designed to protect our children and to ensure that offences against them are reported. Deputy Clune was speaking following a presentation she gave on child welfare issues to the Council of Europe Committee on Social and Family Affairs, of which she is a member.
“The publication today of the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012 by the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, and the Heads of the Children First Bill by the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, will ensure that information relating to crimes against children are reported to An Garda Síochána and that the organisations that are charged with caring for our children in our absence are fit to do so.
“Relying on voluntary codes and guidelines is no longer good enough. If the litany of abuse and subsequent cover-ups has taught us anything, it is that appropriate legislation must be in place to safeguard our children from the horrors of abuse.
“We also need to ensure that the perpetrators of child sexual abuse cannot hide and that those who are aware that abuse is taking place are in no doubt about their responsibility to report it. Instilling confidence in those with information to come forward is essential and the Criminal Justice Bill does just that. It is also important to note that an essential provision has been included to protect a parent or medical professional who is acting in the interests of the child who does not wish for the information to be reported.
“As a member of the One in Five campaign group in the Council of Europe, the aim of which is to stop sexual violence against children, I am cognisant of the fact that in a staggering number of cases (70-85%), the abuser of a child is someone he/she knows. For this reason, we cannot rely only on legislation, we must also remain vigilant where interfamilial and close circle abuse is concerned.
“Until now, there was no legal obligation to adequately shield our children and vulnerable adults. The actions taken by Government today is the first step towards addressing these concerns, ensuring that our children are safe when in the care of others and that any wrongdoing does not go unreported.”