Dáil Éireann - Volume 661 - 24 September, 2008
Written Answers. - Sexual Offences.
Deputy Alan Shatter Deputy Alan Shatter
Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of sex offenders serving sentences of imprisonment; the number in each prison; the number in prison who have to date completed treatment programmes related to the offences committed by them; and the nature of the programme or programmes completed. [31300/08]
Deputy Alan Shatter Deputy Alan Shatter
 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of sex offenders in prison who will complete their sentences within the next 18 months or who have applied to the parole board for release who have undertaken and completed treatment programmes related to the offences committed by them; and the nature of the programme or programmes completed. [31301/08]
Deputy Alan Shatter Deputy Alan Shatter
Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of sex offenders imprisoned participating in a treatment programme relating to the offence or offences committed by them; when such programme will be completed; and the qualifications and numbers of persons employed by the prison service to provide such programmes. [31302/08]
Deputy Alan Shatter Deputy Alan Shatter
Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of convicted sex offenders released from prison during the past five years who have neither undertaken nor participated in any treatment programme provided by the prison service related to the offence or offences for which they were convicted. [31303/08]
Deputy Dermot Ahern Deputy Dermot Ahern
Deputy Dermot Ahern: I propose to take Questions Nos. 994 to 997, inclusive, together.
As of 19 September 2008, 279 prisoners are in custody under sentence for offences of a sexual nature. Ninety of the prisoners in question are in custody in Arbour Hill, 19 are in custody in Castlerea Prison, seven are in custody in Cork Prison, three are in custody in Limerick Prison, 80 are in custody in Midlands Prison, four are in custody in St. Patrick’s Institution and 76 are in custody in Wheatfield Prison. While offenders can be supported and encouraged in their efforts to change and to address their offending behaviour, successful completion of any intervention programme ultimately depends on the willing participation and commitment of appropriately motivated individuals. The challenge for the Irish Prison Service is to use a range of channels to motivate as many offenders as possible to undertake change and to address their offending behaviour. Every effort is made to assist sex offenders in custody who are willing to participate at any level in rehabilitation and relapse prevention.
Three main forms of direct therapeutic intervention for sex offenders are currently operating within the Irish prison system. An intensive sex offender programme has been in operation since 1994. Individual counselling is offered by the Irish Prison Service’s Psychology Service and the Probation Service. One-to-one interventions are made by visiting psychiatrists who provide support to prisoners. The intensive programme is a group programme managed and delivered by the Irish Prison Service’s Psychology Service in partnership with the Probation Service. It caters for eight offenders at a time, taking 11 months to complete. Although delivered in Arbour Hill Prison, it is available to sex offenders in other prisons. The programme is a structured, offence-focused programme, employing a cognitive behavioural approach with a relapse prevention component. The programme places considerable emphasis on the therapeutic process within the group and on supporting each participant in gaining the knowledge, skills, attitudes and self-confidence necessary to live life differently and more constructively in the future. The programme seeks to address the behaviour that leads to offending.
A total of 136 sex offenders have completed the sex offender programme to date. The most recent group completed the programme in July 2008. The programme is delivered by a team comprising a Senior Clinical Psychologist, a Counselling Psychologist and a Probation Officer. The Psychology Service staff involved in the Programme have internationally recognised qualifications in psychology, such as a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology or a Masters in Counselling Psychology. The programme also involves one full-time Probation Officer with accompanying  managerial input. This Probation officer is a professionally qualified social worker. A number of offenders undergo one-to-one counselling in relation to their sexual offending with the Irish Prison Service’s Psychology Service. Some individuals engage with the therapeutic services initially to seek assistance in adjusting to imprisonment and to address their mental health needs. Following such interventions, offenders are often more open to looking at their sexual offending and a concentrated period of motivational work is conducted to help them address their offending behaviour and related issues. 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.
In recent years, additional psychologists have been appointed to the Irish Prison Service. The Service’s staffing level is at an all-time high. The psychologists 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. There are 17 psychologists appointed to the Irish Prison Service. A total of 11 psychologists are based in the establishments holding sex offenders. Another two vacant psychology posts are expected to be filled later this year, both in Arbour Hill Prison. They provide psychological services, on request, to prisoners, including sex offenders, held in these establishments. The work undertaken with sex offenders covers mental health and/or offence-related issues. In 2008 to date, 61 sex offenders have engaged in one-to-one counselling and other interventions with the Psychology Service. The Probation Service also engages with prisoners on a one-to-one basis. The Sex Offender Programme is under review. Recommendations from the review will be incorporated in the new Sex Offender Management Policy that is being finalised. I await the findings of this review.
Some 115 of the sex offenders in custody under sentence will complete their sentences within the next 18 months. Ten of them have completed the intensive Sex Offender Programme. Prisoners do not “apply” to the Parole Board for release. Eligible prisoners, including sex offenders are invited by the board to take part in a process which may ultimately result in the board making a recommendation to the Minister concerning their release. In the course of this process, the board must be satisfied that the prisoner has made the required efforts and reforms to warrant such a recommendation being made. There are 12 sex offenders engaging in the process. Of the 578 sex offenders released in the last five years, 42 have completed the highly intensive Sex Offender Programme. In addition, a number of other sex offenders would have availed of a range of other rehabilitative interventions available in prison.
Deputy Alan Shatter Deputy Alan Shatter
Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposal to ensure that all convicted sex offenders undertake treatment programmes related to the offences for which they were convicted prior to release from prison; the existing services in place to provide for either the supervision or ongoing treatment or counselling of such offenders following release; the period of time to which such monitoring supervision or treatment may apply; and his proposals for reform in this area. [31304/08]
Deputy Dermot Ahern Deputy Dermot Ahern
Deputy Dermot Ahern: The treatment for sex offenders in custody is not straightforward and cannot be viewed in isolation. Supports within the community on release can be equally vital to ensuring sex offenders do not reoffend. While the weight of opinion is that cognitive behavioural approaches to the treatment of sexual offenders show the most promise, not all offenders are amenable to such treatment and unless properly motivated the chances of success with an offender are limited. Even if it were legally  possible, there is no gain in forcing offenders to attend such treatment against their will. A Group involving my Department, the Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service has been established to review the existing arrangements for the management of sex offenders. That review will include the question of treatment and supervision. In the meantime, every effort continues to be made to assist sex offenders in custody who are willing to participate at any level in rehabilitation and relapse prevention. The challenge for the Irish Prison Service, therefore, is to use a range of channels to motivate as many offenders as possible to undertake change and to address their offending behaviour.
Three main forms of direct therapeutic intervention for sex offenders are currently operating within the Irish prison system. An intensive sex offender programme has been in operation since 1994. Individual counselling is offered by the Irish Prison Service’s Psychology Service and the Probation Service. One-to-one interventions are made by visiting psychiatrists who provide support to prisoners. The intensive programme is a group programme managed and delivered by the Irish Prison Service’s Psychology Service in partnership with the Probation Service. The programme seeks to address the behaviour that leads to offending. Although delivered in Arbour Hill Prison, it is available to sex offenders in all prisons. A total of 136 sex offenders have completed the sex offender programme to date. The most recent group completed the programme in July 2008. A number of offenders undergo one-to-one counselling in relation to their sexual offending with the Irish Prison Service’s Psychology Service. The Probation Service also engages with prisoners on a one-to-one basis.
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. The Sex Offender Programme is under review and the recommendations from this will be incorporated in the new Sex Offender Management Policy, which is being finalised. I await the outcome of this review. Working in conjunction with the Psychology Service of the Irish Prison Service, the Probation Service engages with sex offenders in custody to reduce their risk of reoffending and in preparation for their release. The Department of Justice, through the Probation Service, funds and delivers two community-based sex offender treatment programmes in partnership with the Granada Institute. A third programme, known as “Lighthouse”, which is based in Cork, is due to commence in October of this year. The Probation Service is in the process of introducing an all-island risk assessment tool for sex offenders which will assist with pre-release and post-release assessment and management of sex offenders. Initial joint training to this effect has taken place with the Garda Síochána.
As the Deputy is aware, the 2001 Act provides for a range of actions in relation to the management of this group of offenders. The Sex Offender Act 2001 (Part 5) provides for the post-release supervision of a convicted sex offender by the Probation Service. The period of supervision is set by the court and is based on considerations of the offender’s rehabilitative needs and the need to protect the public from serious harm. Under the Act, the combination of the term of imprisonment and the period of supervision cannot exceed the maximum penalty provided by statute for the offence committed (section 29). The period of post-release supervision can be subject to additional conditions of counselling or treatment (section 30). Under Part 5, offenders who are subject to a post release supervision Order are managed on a one-to-one basis by a Probation Officer. If a sex offender fails to comply with supervision obligations, as directed by the Court in accordance with the Act, the offender is guilty of an offence and may be subject on conviction to a fine and-or imprisonment. It is a matter for the court in its deliberations at the time of sentencing to decide whether to impose a post-release supervision order.
 There is a system in place whereby child care managers in the Health Service Executive are informed by the senior probation officer of the impending release of sex offenders from prisons regardless of whether the offence is against a child or adult. The child care manager is provided with the date of release, details of the offence committed and the address of the offender following release. Section 9 of the Sex Offenders Act places an obligation on prison governors to inform the Garda of the impending release of a sex offender, at least 10 days in advance, and to remind the offender of his or her obligations under the legislation prior to release. In addition to offenders approaching release, offenders who are going to court where there is a possibility of early release, such as a review of sentence or an appeal of length of sentence, must be informed of their obligations before they attend court.
Furthermore, a convicted sex offender must notify his/her name(s), date of birth and current home address to the Garda Síochána within seven days of the conviction for the sexual offence concerned or, where the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, from the date of full release from prison. The offender must also notify the Garda of any change of name or address within seven days of that change. Notification of any address where the offender spends either as much as seven days or two or more periods amounting to seven days in any 12-month period must also be given to the Garda. If the offender intends to leave the State for a period of seven days or more s/he must inform the Garda of this fact and the address at which s/he intends to stay and also notify the Garda of his/her return.
The provisions of the Act extend to any sex offenders entering this jurisdiction from abroad who have an obligation to register in their own countries or who have been convicted abroad of an offence comparable to one covered by the Act. It is an offence (Part 4) for convicted sex offenders to apply for, or to accept, work or to offer services, a necessary and regular part of which consists mainly of unsupervised access to, or contact with, children or mentally impaired persons, without informing the employer or organisation of his/her conviction for a qualifying sexual offence. It is an offence to fail to comply with the notification requirements. The Garda has a system in place to monitor people subject to the aforementioned requirements.
A registered sex offender advisory group, comprising representatives of the Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Northern Ireland Office, has been established. As part of its work, the group evaluates the potential for sharing information, examines the registration criteria in both jurisdictions for sex offenders and identifies areas for further co-operation. A protocol for the sharing of information on the management of sex offenders between the Probation Service and the Probation Board for Northern Ireland was signed by the heads of both organisations in March 2006. The protocol established mutual arrangements for the management of sex offenders, subject to supervision by the respective services. The protocol facilitates best practice and effective case management of sex offenders between jurisdictions by enabling the exchange of relevant information on a structured and agreed basis. A Memorandum of Understanding on information sharing arrangements between Ireland and the UK relating to sex offenders was signed on 27 November 2006. The rationale for the memorandum is that such information will be shared between police forces for the purposes of protecting the public from the risks presented by sex offenders — whether paedophile or otherwise — and investigating serious sexual offences. The transmission of any information necessary to achieve these purposes is covered.
In Northern Ireland and Scotland, a static assessment instrument is used to assess risk factors for reoffending which do not change through intervention, such as age, sex, number of previous convictions, gender and age of victim. The system is known as MASRAM — Multi Agency Sex Offenders Risk Assessment and Management — in Northern Ireland and MAPPA —  Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements — in Scotland. Static assessments are useful predictors for estimating the long-term recidivism potential of an offender. The two jurisdictions have decided to supplement this assessment instrument (Risk Matrix 2000) with an additional instrument — Stable and Acute 2007 — which has been developed by Hanson and Harris. This assessment tool allows for a dynamic and ongoing assessment of changes in an offender’s situation that may increase his or her chances of reoffending. These dynamic factors can be further broken down into “stable” factors, which reflect relatively enduring traits such as intimacy deficits, and “acute” factors, which can change rapidly, such as intense anger. The combination of static assessment — Risk Matrix 2000 — and Stable and Acute assessment has been identified as the most comprehensive available for the effective management of sex offenders in the community in both Northern Ireland and Scotland.
The Probation Service has committed to the introduction of the above assessment system in this jurisdiction in the coming year. An implementation team is developing a plan for its introduction nationally. Officers are receiving the necessary training and are already piloting its use. Close liaison has been developed with both the Probation Board for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Sex Offender Strategic Management Committee in relation to the 12-month pilot introduction of this system under MASRAM in Northern Ireland. Contact with the Scottish Executive is also being established.
The Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service continually review their processes to determine what measures may be taken to increase the number of offenders participating on the Sex Offenders programme. In recent years, additional psychologists have been appointed to the Irish Prison Service. The Service’s staffing level is at an all-time high, as is the staffing level of the Probation Service. These new psychologists 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. In addition, the Irish Prison Service is actively exploring the possibility of enhancing service provision to sex offenders in all institutions in the prison estate, in partnership with community based organisations which have expertise in this area. Likewise, the Probation Service continues to monitor developments and best practice internationally in the management of sex offenders in the community, as evidenced by the introduction of the assessment tool that has been mentioned. Probation Service staff continue to be actively involved in the delivery of community based programmes which specifically cater for the sex offender client group to address offending behaviour with a view to reducing recidivism.
Dáil Éireann 661 Written Answers. Sexual Offences.