Jerry Aspinio is a 13-year-old boy who was full of wonder and curiosity at the world as he grew up in Angeles City, Philippines. Although that is not his real name, imagine what he found when one day with some of his classmates his age he left the school and heard a man call to them from a house balcony just outside the school gate, “Come on over, here are some candies.” The large overweight white male from the UK called to them as he threw a handful of candies to the boys passing below.
The kids rushed to get them, laughing and pushing and shoving. The man was soon beside them inviting them inside to play video games and watch TV on a huge screen. These were wonders to the poor boys who could not afford a movie ticket or play a video game. They ate and drank soft drinks and soon he had them sitting on his lap.
The pedophile showed them videos of sexual acts that he pressured them to do to him for money. DS, almost 70 years old then, abused Jerry and the other boys. He was facing child sexual abuse charges in the UK some years previously and fled to the Philippines. He set up a profitable business here and was charged several times with the sexual abuse of minors. The charges were dropped when he paid bribes to the corrupt officials. But a few years ago, he was extradited to the UK to face the child abuse charges there and was convicted and sentenced to 24 years in jail.
If there was a law that allowed his passport be cancelled when he was first charged, he would not have escaped and would have remained in the UK and faced justice. His conviction would put him on the register of convicted pedophiles and watched after sentence was served. He would not have been able to travel and abuse Filipino children.
We need a strong law cancelling the passports of convicted child sex offenders. Thousands of men from rich countries charged with crimes against children and many convicted of child rape travel to poor countries where the law enforcement is lax and they easily abuse and rape children with impunity.
The defenders of children are promoting such a new law in Ireland and the UK and eventually in the EU. Ireland is already taking the lead in this led by TD Maureen O’Sullivan supported by TD Sean Barrett and other concerned members of the parliament and members of the Foreign Affairs Committee who believe firmly it can be done given the political will of the Irish Dail. For this they were elected and they are committed to protect children wherever they are vulnerable and exposed to traveling child sex offenders.
Unlike other countries Ireland does not have a registry of child sexual offenders but it should have and this ought to be included in the new law. Also the law ought to provide that a Garda section be formed to monitor and watch these convicted pedophiles listed on the registry and that they report frequently to the Garda station as is the practice in other countries. Any convicted pedophile that may elude the watch list ought to be reported to Interpol and Europol.
The debate on such a proposed law will be about the constitutional rights of convicted pedophiles to travel and the rights to protect vulnerable children from rape and abuse. In the balance, the new law should come down on the side of the rights of the children. They are the weakest and most prone and vulnerable.
While there is no precedent in Irish law to allow this, there is in the UK where suspected football hooligans are banned from travelling to certain football matches. They are just suspects of a possible crime, not even convicted, yet the law allowed them to be banned. Besides, citizens or residents of the UK also suspected of planning to travel to a Middle Eastern country to engage with Jihadists can have their passports held.
The European Court of Human Rights has not ruled against it and human rights groups have not protested this practice. To cancel a passport or deny one to an Irish citizen for just cause is legal, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs. It does not mean that their citizenship or nationality is revoked. It means as an Irish or a UK citizen for that matter, due to their previous conviction, they cannot travel abroad.
The new law in Ireland and the UK must favor the greater good that protects children from abuse against the rights of a convicted pedophile to travel. Besides, the Australian parliament has passed such a law and it has not been challenged as violating any constitutional right of a convicted pedophile.
While good and honest human rights activists and civil libertarians may indeed challenge such a law, there will be secret opposition from the pedophiles hidden but lurking at all levels in society that will find behind-the-scenes ways to block such a law. We have to accept the truth that there are thousands of secret child abusers hidden in the fabric of society. Statistics says one child in every four in Ireland has suffered abuse (info@ oneinfour.ie). The Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) also has shocking statistics and shows a conspiracy of silence in society denying or covering up child sexual abuse. Pedophile networks are everywhere as seen by the discovery of thousands of pedophiles linked together sharing images of children being sexually abused on-line.
We need a strong clear sustainable law that creates a registry of convicted child sexual offenders and mandates judges to severely restrict or ban outright a convicted child sexual offender for travelling abroad.
Rev. Shay Cullen is a co-founder of PREDA -- a nonprofit dedicated to protecting children.