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Ireland passes emergency statutory rape bill after high court overturns 1935 law

[JURIST] Irish President Mary McAleese [official website] signed an emergency bill [PDF] into law Friday authorizing jail sentences for persons convicted of for having sex with minors, but allowing them to use mistake of age as a defense. The bill was hurriedly passed through the Irish Parliament [official website] after the Irish Supreme Court [official website] last week ruled a 1935 statutory rape law unconstitutional [judgment text] because it did not permit defendants to claim they thought a girl under the age of 15 was older. The new sexual offense law makes it a crime to have sex or attempt to engage in a sexual act with a child under 15 years of age, but it will still allow men to testify that they thought their victims were of the consenting age of 17.

Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell [official website] has cautioned that the new law will now allow for harsh questioning of minors by defense lawyers. The law also does not criminalize girls who have sex under the age of 17 because the government did not want to stigmatize teenage mothers. AP has more.

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