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Mandatory treatment for sex offenders "not a realistic option"

Minister O’Dowd confirmed this evening that participation in these programmes must be voluntary.

Image: prison via Shutterstock

THE GOVERNMENT HAS ruled out the mandatory treatment for sex offenders to address behavioural issues.

Speaking on behalf of the Justice Minister, Junior Minister Fergus O’Dowd said it was “often mooted”, but is “not a realistic option”.

“While offenders can be supported and encouraged in their efforts to address their offending behaviour,” the Minister said, “ultimately experience has shown that successful completion of an intervention programme depends on the willing participation and commitment of appropriately motivated individuals.”

“Motivate”

O’Dowd said this leaves prison services with the option to “motivate and incentivise” the offenders to take part in a programme as much as possible.

The Minister was speaking this evening in the Seanad, responding to a request from Fine Gael Senator Deirdre Clune for the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to outline “structured in place to deal with sexual offenders in our prisons”.

Measures outlined include the Building Better Lives Programme at Arbour Hill Prison, and the Baseline Project, which is aimed at young offenders.

“Therapeutic”

The main treatment programme availed of is known as Safe Lives, described as taking a “a strengths based therapeutic approach”.

The Minister said that some sex offenders are not suited for “group programmes,” and will instead engage with individual work with the Probation Service.

“Serious harm”

“This work primarily focuses on reducing the risk posed by the individual following release and also on any child protection issues which may arise”, he said, highlighting that under the Sex Offenders Act 2001 a period of supervision is often set by the court upon the prisoner’s release to “protect the public from serious harm”.

Late last year, Reform Alliance TD Denis Naughten put forward the government-supported Child Sex Offenders (Information and Monitoring) Bill 2012, modelled on the recently introduced Sarah’s Law in the UK.

Minister Alan Shatter recommended to Cabinet that the Government should not oppose the bill when it reaches second stage.

Denis Naughten: We need a version of ‘Sarah’s Law’ to help protect children >

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Nicky Ryan

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