Sexual Offences Bill could introduce statutory definition of consent

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

A legal definition of consent could be incorporated into the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill, the Irish Examiner reports.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was asked at a recent event whether a definition would be included in the legislation.

Ms Fitzgerald said: “We’re examining that and if it’s possible to do that, if we feel it’s in the interest of victims, we’ll go ahead and insert that at committee stages of the Sexual Offences Bill.”

Ireland does not currently have a statutory definition of consent, with this having instead been developed through case law.

A definition of consent was introduced in England and Wales through section 74 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

The Rape Crisis Network of Ireland (RCNI) has called for a similar statutory definition to be introduced in Ireland.

In a 1988 report, the Law Reform Commission recommended legislation to provide that consent “means a consent freely and voluntarily given and, without in any way affecting or limiting the meaning otherwise attributable to those words, a consent is not freely and voluntarily given if it is obtained by force, threat, intimidation, deception or fraudulent means”.

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