Following numerous communications with Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, on 4th March I finally received the following communication by email from his office regarding the half-way house in Ratoath –
I am directed by the Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform, Mr. Dermot Ahern T.D. to refer to your recent letters regarding the use of certain accommodation in Ratoath to accommodate the post release management of a released prisoner.
I wish to advise that work with higher risk offenders (including sex offenders) following release from prison is done on the basis of risk assessments and all relevant information to assist in the post release management of the particular offender. This work is done in partnership with other relevant agencies including the Garda Síochána and the Probation Service. As you will appreciate all such work is aimed at enhancing community safety by focussing on preventing re-offending and promoting rehabilitation.
The Sex Offenders Act 2001 contains a comprehensive set of provisions aimed at protecting children and other persons. The Act makes persons convicted of a range of sexual offences subject to notification requirements under Part 2, including notification of changes of address and the Gardaí are the only agency with any authority to hold and manage such notification information in all cases.
Furthermore when an offender is under any form of supervision by the Probation Service, that Service is governed by the Data Protection legislation and must work within the strict parameters of that legislation in communicating relevant information to other partner agencies in the management of any particular offender.
In relation to the specific accommodation address in Ratoath, I can advise that the accommodation option sourced in that area has been returned to the landlord. I can also confirm that that address will not be used again for the post release accommodation of any released person.
I trust this clarifies the position for you. Yours sincerely, Barry O’Donnell, Private Secretary . 4 March 2010”
The outcome of this particular incident is indeed a happy one but I genuinely believe that we should have far more transparency with regard to the post release arrangements of particular prisoners and I will continue to campaign for a “Megan’s Law” type scenario in Ireland.