Dáil Éireann - Volume 597 - 16 February, 2005
Written Answers. - Sexual Offences.
Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin
121. Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons serving custodial sentences for sexual offences; the number of such offenders who have been offered a place in training programmes designed to prevent re-offending; the number who took up such courses; if he has satisfied himself at the very low rate of take-up; the plans he has to encourage greater take up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4937/05]
Mr. McDowell Mr. McDowell
Mr. McDowell: As of 15 February 2005, there were 267 prisoners serving sentences for sexual offences. There are three forms of direct therapeutic intervention for sex offenders currently operating within the Irish prison system. These are as follows: individual counselling from the Irish Prison Service’s psychology service and from the probation and welfare service; the sex offender programme which has been in operation since 1994; one to one interventions by visiting psychiatrists who provide support to prisoners.
 Every effort is made to assist sex offenders in custody who are willing to participate at any level in their personal rehabilitation and relapse prevention. While it is not possible to quantify with absolute accuracy participation in all forms of rehabilitation, many of those in custody for sex offences have availed of one or more of the forms of intervention referred to above.
A total of 106 sex offenders have completed the sex offender programme to date. A further eight men are currently undertaking the programme in Arbour Hill Prison. The total number of places available on the programme at present is eight. While there were 37 applicants for the programme, only eight were assessed as suitably motivated for participation on the programme. The reasons applicants for the programme might be considered unsuitable include: currently on remand, appeal pending, current serious mental health problems, not sufficiently prepared for the intensity of the programme, denial of offence, etc. Consequently, there is no waiting list in operation in respect of participation on the programme. The programme is voluntary and the practice is to invite all eligible sex offenders to apply for a place on the programme when a new group programme is being set up.
The number of offenders undergoing one to one counselling in relation to their sexual offending is difficult to define because of the varied nature of individual counselling provided to sex offenders in prison. Some individuals engage with the therapeutic services initially to seek assistance in adjusting to imprisonment or to address their mental health needs. Following such interventions, the offender is often more open to looking at his sexual offending and a concentrated period of motivational work is conducted to help sex offenders address their offending behaviour. In response to such counselling many offenders, who initially might deny responsibility for their crime or deny any need for treatment, are motivated towards some process of change. For some offenders this results in them undertaking the sex offender programme, for others it results in sustained individual therapy around their offending or engagement in some other programme available in the prison system.
The number of suitably motivated offenders applying for participation on the sex offenders programme has declined in recent years and this is a matter of concern. The Irish Prison Service is currently examining this situation to determine what measures may be taken to increase the number of offenders participating on the programme. A number of additional psychologists have recently been appointed to the Irish Prison Service and further appointments are due to be made over the coming months. These new psychologists will play an important role in working with offenders to address their offending behaviour, including work with sex offenders aimed at enhancing their preparedness for possible participation on the sex offender programme.
Dáil Éireann 597 Written Answers. Sexual Offences.