Don't let rapists out of prison without rehab -- victims' group
Published 21/08/2010 | 05:00
RAPE crisis campaigners last night called for new laws to prevent the release of sex offenders unless they can demonstrate they have been rehabilitated.
The call came as an Irish Independent investigation reveals at least 10 named high-risk rapists -- offenders jailed for more than eight years -- are due for release by 2015.
Several received sentences longer than or comparable to that received by Larry Murphy, whose release last week caused uproar around the country.
The list includes serial rapists and others who used extreme violence against their victims.
A further 20 high-risk rapists, including a number serving life terms, are set for release between 2016 and 2020.
All are in line to gain automatic 25pc remission for "good behaviour" in jail.
However, it is feared many of them will not have undergone therapy by the time they are freed after it emerged that just 7pc out of 578 sex offenders released over a five-year period had completed a rehabilitation programme.
Meanwhile, the probation service is struggling to cope with the numbers of sex offenders released from prison with supervision orders, against a background of falling staff numbers due to the Government's recruitment ban.
It is currently working with more than 150 serious sex offenders who have been released from jail.
That number is set to almost double as there are more than 140 offenders who will be the subject of supervision orders on their release.
There has been a steady increase in the number of sex offenders jailed over the past four years, rising from 232 in December 2006 to 346 this week.
Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) last night called for risk assessment programmes to be incorporated in sentencing, giving authorities the option of further detaining an offender who refuses treatment.
"The judiciary should build in a programme of risk assessment into sentences where offenders can be reviewed as to risk on an interim basis," RCNI executive director Fiona Neary told the Irish Independent.
"If prisoners are not participating in treatment programmes or if it can not be proved that the harm they pose is reduced, there should be an option to detain them in custody.
"The issue of the release back into the community of serious sex offenders is much more than one individual (Larry Murphy) and if you cannot demonstrate that the harm you pose to the public has been reduced, you should not be released."
The Prison Service acknowledged previous rehabilitation treatment figures had been very low and pointed out that, under a new programme, some 60 inmates were helped last year.
"The commitment going forward is that sex offenders with sentences longer than 18 months will not leave custody without receiving treatment," a Prison Service spokesman said.
However, it will remain policy that offenders cannot be compelled to undergo treatment.
Murphy, who served 10-and-a-half years of a 15-year sentence for the rape, abduction and attempted murder of a Co Carlow businesswoman in 2000, refused to undergo treatment while in prison.
He subsequently agreed to engage with the Probation Service after being pursued by the media and shadowed by gardai following his release.
Meanwhile, the RCNI has backed Fine Gael plans to introduce electronic tagging if it forms the next government.
The party's children's rights spokesman Charlie Flanagan also pledged that it would end the automatic entitlement of convicted criminals to 25pc remission.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) said last night that any remission for sex offenders should be linked to the completion of treatment programmes.
"These programmes are very difficult to complete and it is hard for any offender who takes part not to be affected by them," said Ellen O'Malley Dunlop, chief executive of the centre.
The DRCC, which said the Department of Justice should "use its time wisely" before more serious offenders were released into the community, has also called for judges and lawyers working with victims of rape and sexual assault to receive specialist training in line with international best practice.
A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said there were no plans to end the remission regime or to force sex offenders into rehabilitation programmes.
"It has to be pointed out that rehabilitation does not work unless the offender is motivated to engage in the process," the spokeswoman said.