Dáil Éireann - Volume 497 - 26 November, 1998
Written Answers - Sex Offender Treatment Programme.
Mr. U. Burke Mr. U. Burke
12. Mr. U. Burke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of sex offenders in prison; the number participating in treatment programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25026/98]
Mr. Crawford Mr. Crawford
13. Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of sex offenders released from prison in 1997 and to date in 1998; the number who participated in treatment programmes while in prison; the arrangements made for their release into the community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25017/98]
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue) John O'Donoghue
 Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 13 together.
There were 291 convicted sex offenders in custody in prisons and places of detention as of Friday, 20 November 1998. Forty two sex offenders were released in 1997 and 81 have been released so far in 1998 on full completion of their sentences.
There are currently ten offenders undergoing the sex offender treatment programme in Arbour Hill Prison in addition to 42 offenders undergoing one-to-one counselling provided by my Department's clinical psychology service and the probation and welfare service. Of the 48 offenders who have successfully completed the sex offender treatment programme, 23 were released in 1997 and to date in 1998. It is understood that a considerable number of those released would also have received one-to-one counselling.
Offenders who have completed their sentences cannot be compelled to accept supervision from the probation and welfare service. There are however 96 sex offenders under mandatory supervision by the probation and welfare service on foot of court orders.
All convicted sex offenders who are in custody, irrespective of the institution in which they are accommodated, are invited to apply to participate in the programme. Those who apply are considered by the treatment team but not all are found to be suitable. Where more than ten offenders who have applied are deemed suitable, the places on the next programme are allocated to those nearest the end of their sentence. The others are offered a place on a subsequent programme.
All sex offenders are encouraged to avail of treatment. They cannot, however, be compelled to attend, nor do they receive any extra concessions for attending. One hears suggestions from time to time that all sex offenders should be compelled to avail of treatment and that it is not good enough to confine treatment to those who volunteer. The professional advice given to me is that while it is valid to encourage offenders to participate, compulsory treatment would not work. There would be no point — it would be dangerous — in giving the impression that an offender about to be released was reasonably safe because he had been forced through a treatment programme.
I am keen to increase the number of group treatment places available for sex offenders and, to this end, my Department is actively examining the possibility of locating a further group treatment programme for ten sex offenders at the Curragh place of detention. In view of the specialised skills necessary to set up and run such a programme it is taking some time to put a new programme in place. Any prisoner currently there may apply to participate in the dedicated treatment programme in Arbour Hill Prison.
A new non-therapeutic programme for  offenders, the thinking skills training programme, was introduced in Arbour Hill Prison earlier this year. A significant number of sex offenders in Arbour Hill have commenced this new programme. A similar programme has also been introduced in Cork Prison.
The issue of post-release supervision and support of sex offenders was among the matters addressed in the discussion paper on the law on sexual offences which I published last May. An analysis of the submissions received on the entirety of the discussion paper is being undertaken in my Department. Once that analysis has been completed, consideration will be given to the question of the preparation of proposals for legislative change.
My Department has commissioned the clinical psychology department at University College Dublin to conduct a detailed evaluation of the group treatment programme at Arbour Hill. This will take a number of years to complete and should eventually provide empirical data that demonstrates the efficacy of treatment, as measured by reduced recidivism among treated offenders compared to an untreated group.
Dáil Éireann 497 Written Answers Sex Offender Treatment Programme.