Only 1 in 6 sex offenders receive treatment before release from prison

451 sex offenders released from prison over the last three years
451 sex offenders released from prison over the last three years

Only 1 in 6 sex offenders released from prison in the last three years had received treatment designed to reduce the risk of them re-offending.

The shocking figures were published today by Independent TD Denis Naughten as he called on the Government to overhaul the laws regarding sex offenders in Ireland, when they are in prison and after their release.

Naughten says that of the 451 sex offenders released from prison in the three years up to the end of 2015, just 73 - or one in six - have availed of a treatment programme which could reduce the risk of reoffending.

“At present the voluntary Building Better Lives treatment programme is only available at Arbour Hill, prison which is definitely a factor in the uptake of treatment but this still cannot explain the small numbers accessing this important treatment,” said Naughten.

"This lack of access to treatment while in prison is compounded by the fact that Gardai are then trying to monitor these offenders post-release with their hands tied behind their backs," he added.

In the Dail yesterday, responding to a question from Naughten on the level of take up of treatment, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said that the Building Better Lives programme would be launched in the Midlands Prison too, a jail that houses many of Ireland's sex offenders. 

Naughten also wants to see changes to how released offenders are monitored.

“The current law governing the conditions for registration, the Sex Offenders Act 2001, is not fit for purpose and needs to be urgently reformed to ensure more effective management of sex offenders," he said.

“At present, once a sex offender registers their official address with any Garda station they can roam around the country for six days as long as they turn up at that official address on the seventh day.

“The failure to close off dangerous loopholes in the monitoring of high risk sex offenders leaves our system open for abuse and means that anyone who wants to avoid Garda attention can easily do so and still comply with the conditions of the so-called sex offenders register.

“While we await a comprehensive reform of the law in this area, which is still a further 18 months away, I’m urging the Government to act on a law which I have produced which received the approval of the Dáil in October 2013. This would not only close off a number of registration loop holes but would also create a system to enable parents to enquire whether persons coming into contact with their child or vulnerable adult have been convicted of a sexual offence or otherwise pose a serious danger.

“This law, the Child Sex Offenders (Information and Monitoring) Bill 2012, has been stalled in the Justice Committee for the last two years and could protect children and vulnerable adults in communities right across this country,” said Naughten.