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Connacht Tribune

Sex Offenders Register doesn’t actually exist

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Convicted rapists who comply with the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act – by informing Gardaí of their address on release from prison – can stay anywhere they like and even leave the country without having to inform the authorities, so long as it’s for six days or less.

That’s what Galway District Court was told this week – when it was also informed that, while the term ‘Sex Offenders Register’ is commonly used, there is, in fact, no such register in Ireland.

Instead, Gardaí – who are already aware of the conviction because they prosecuted the case – have to rely on the offender presenting himself at his local station to ‘register’ in accordance with the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act 2001, once released from prison.  Non-compliance can lead to prosecution.

The above matters came to light during a lengthy, contested hearing this week involving convicted rapist, Francis Sweeney (45), of 19 Liam Mellows Terrace, Bohermore, who denied a charge of failing to comply with the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 by not living at the address in Bohermore which he had given Gardaí on his release from prison in November 2013.

Sweeney was jailed for nine years in 2007 for the violent, multiple rapes and sexual assault of a young mother in her home in Galway city in 2004.

Detective Gerry Carroll told the hearing this week he had been assigned to monitor Sweeney on his release from prison in 2013, and had called to the Bohermore address, which Sweeney had provided to Gardaí, three to four times a year.

He said Sweeney had been living in a caravan, parked at the front of the family home in Bohermore for some time.

However, he said he became aware in December 2017 that a bench warrant had been issued for Sweeney’s arrest when he failed to appear before Galway Circuit Criminal Court to answer an unrelated charge of assault.  He said he called to the house in Bohermore on January 3 last year but Sweeney was not there.

He confirmed Sweeney had been arrested at his partner’s address in Westside on November 14 last year.

Defence solicitor, Sean Acton, said Sweeney was adamant he had been living all along at 19 Liam Mellows Terrace with his brother, Anthony Sweeney.

He said Sweeney had notified Gardaí in 2015 that he was moving address, when he went to live for a time with his wife, and informed them again when he moved back home that same year to Liam Mellows Terrace.

“His obligation under the Sex Offenders Act is to inform you of his address, but he is under no obligation to answer the door to you or speak to you if you call to his address,” Mr Acton put to Det. Carroll.

Mr Acton said Sweeney had been living at the family home in Bohermore all along and had not answered the door when Det. Carroll called because he did not want to be arrested for the bench warrant.

The solicitor said Sweeney had been arrested at his wife’s address in Westside because he often spent ‘the odd night’ there as she suffered from cancer.

“The Act allows for that – for a person to stay not more than seven days – at an address other than that given to Gardaí,” Mr Acton explained.

Det. Sgt. Adrian O’Neill gave evidence he was responsible for the monitoring of people subject to the Sex Offenders Act in the Galway District and had assigned Det. Carroll to monitor Sweeney.

He explained that in accordance with the law, Sweeney would have to inform Gardaí if he spent seven days or more at a different address.

“There is no such thing as a Sex Offenders Register and Gardaí have to ensure compliance with the Act,” Mr Acton said.

Det. Sgt. O’Neill agreed, but added:  “The onus is on the defendant to notify the Gardaí (of his address).  There is no onus on the Gardaí.”

“He (Sweeney) can go to any address for six days and not have to notify you.  He can go for six days here and six days there for an entire year,” Mr Acton said.

“He can even go to the Canaries if he wants and not notify us, so long as it’s for six days,” Det. Sgt. O’Neill replied.

Mrs Susan Sweeney said she had been battling cancer for the last ten years and her husband called to see her regularly now and often stayed over.

Judge Mary Fahy said she had a doubt and she dismissed the charge.

“The Act needs to be revised and the onus and obligations – for both defendants and Gardaí – need to be spelled out ‘in black and white’,” she said.

Connacht Tribune

Key moves on animal transport get the nod

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MEP Billy Kelleher: Key amendments passed.

LOCAL and national farm representatives have welcomed the adoption of amendments proposed by an Irish MEP in relation to the transportation of live animals across the EU.

The amendments proposed by Munster Fianna Fáil Munster MEP, Billy Kelleher, means less severe restrictions will apply in relation to calf and pregnant animal travel.

In 2020, the European Parliament set up an ANIT (Committee of Inquiry into Animal Transport) to investigate alleged violations of EU animal transport rules.

The Committee concluded that EU provisions in the area of animal transport were not always complied with in member states and did not fully take into account ‘the different needs of animals’.

Last week, MEPs voted by 557 to 55 (78 absentions) supporting new measures to address animal travel issues, including lack of headroom, water and food supplies, animals for travel being transported, and overcrowding.

However, a number of Irish MEPs led by Billy Kelleher proposed two amendments to the proposals, which were accepted in the overall vote in the European Parliament.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Tuam students have warm welcome for Eddie, the Labrador who is already top of the class

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Eddie the dog, Tuam's Mercy Convent newest addition.

A North Galway school has unveiled their newest member – Eddie, the three-year-old Labrador dog.

The new canine recruit works as a therapy, or education, aid for students in Mercy Secondary School, Tuam – and he has already been a huge hit with students.

Scoil Bhride Principal Gearoid Leen has described the dog as an essential part of the learning process within the school.

The pure-bred Labrador is one of just eight community dogs that have been assigned to schools across the country.

This week, the new arrival was introduced to students and parents as part of the learning process. The presence of the dog relaxes students and, apparently, helps with their concentration.

Eddie’s fourth birthday is on March 18, the day after St Patrick’s Day – and, such is his instant popularity, the students have a special celebration in mind.

The newest addition to the secondary school has been trained by the Irish Guide Dogs Association and Eddie, along with his trained handlers Sarah Molloy and Catherine Murphy, now becomes part of the essential learning process within the school.

The Labrador and his handlers work alongside the teachers and educational staff in the school to help reduce stress and increase the learning potential of the students by goal directed interventions.

Together, Eddie and his handlers participate in classroom activities and work with individual students and groups.

Parents have responded positively to the new arriva, saying that more schools should try and apply for the scheme.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Food for the soul

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Chef Martin Ruffley

Lifestyle – Friends Anna King and Martin Ruffley have joined forces to write a unique book based on Martin’s life story. Built around recipes which Martin, a chef and lecturer at GMIT, has created it covers his journey from alcoholism to sobriety and explains how cooking helps him to live in the moment. They tell JUDY MURPHY how it evolved. 

Watching chef Martin Ruffley preparing food was something that intrigued Anna King.

“When he’s cooking, he moves from this hyperactive personality to being peaceful and in the flow. He gives so much of his heart and soul when he’s cooking. It’s a mindful experience,” she says.

As someone whose background is in mindfulness and meditation, with a life-long interest in sustainable food production, Anna was intrigued by how the art of cooking transformed her friend. He agrees.

“When I’m cooking I focus completely on what I’m doing.”

The discussions they’ve had about this and about Martin’s journey from alcoholism to sobriety form the basis of a new book which they’ve co-authored.

Rekindling the Fire: Food and the Journey of Life is Martin’s story, but Anna has brought her writing skills to bear in how the narrative unfolds in this glorious publication, with photos by Julian Dunin and Professor Chaosheng Zhang,

At the heart of the book are Martin’s recipes, grouped together to create seven menus – each forming a chapter.

The first three chapters document his descent into alcoholism and the final four, his life since becoming sober at the age of 44.

But, while it’s listed under the ‘cookery’ genre by booksellers,  this book defies genres. That’s intentional, explains Anna.

“It’s a creative experience and with a view to supporting and helping communities in the way we view alcoholism. Alcoholism isn’t about an individual it’s about people and support and the lack of it.”

“We won’t make a fortune out of it and retire to Italy,” says Martin with a laugh. “That’s not why we’re doing it. If I can help one person who is suffering from addiction, I’ll be happy.”

Anna praises Martin for expressing his vulnerability in the book, while he stresses that, without his trust in her, it wouldn’t have happened.

“I felt such a connection with Martin’s story on many levels,” Anna explains.

And it’s pretty extraordinary.

Born in Bohermore 64 years ago, Martin left school at 13 and trained as a glass-blower at Galway Crystal. When he as was made redundant a few years later, due to the import of cheaper glass, he joined the Army School of Catering and trained as a chef. The Army gave him a good life and he honed his craft during the 21 years in its ranks. He also saw service overseas, with three tours of Lebanon in the 1980s and one in Bosnia in the late 1990s.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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