Enforced rehab for sex crime prisoners of 'no value'
Sex offenders forced to take part in rehabilitation programmes while in prison will not benefit from the experience, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said yesterday.
After a lengthy consultation with experts and interested groups, he said he had come to the conclusion that offenders had to be properly motivated if those programmes were to have real, long-lasting, positive effect.
"Compulsory participation would, in my view, be of limited or no value in the majority of such cases," he added.
The minister said there had been much media comment in recent weeks, following the release of sex offender Larry Murphy, on whether prisoners who refused to take part in the programmes should be granted remission.
Among the "sound bites" there had been calls for rehabilitation programmes to become mandatory.
But while recognising the concerns of people in the community and other commentators, he believed that changing conditions on remission would create legal and constitutional problems.
He pointed out that there was a wide range of therapeutic interventions within the prison system and generally those motivated sufficiently to engage would benefit.
But he believed that those who participated against their wishes would become disruptive and could affect other prisoners who were taking part willingly.
He said that in 2001 legislation had been enacted to allow the courts to impose post-release supervision of offenders.
And ten offenders were currently taking part in the pilot project for electronic tagging and developments were being monitored. If the tagging was successful it would be extended, he added.
But Mr Ahern said he was not sure that tagging should be used for sex offenders.
He said he also had difficulties with a suggestion made by an advisory group that sex offenders be granted temporary release before they had completed their sentences.
Parole Board chairman Gordon Holmes said he was very interested in the tagging and there was no doubt that if a prisoner voluntarily agreed to tagging it would be easier for the board to recommend parole.
If prisoners did not wish to be tagged, the board could draw inferences from that decision.
He said that only one person allowed out on temporary release following recommendation from the board had offended again.
Dr Holmes also highlighted prisoners sentenced in the UK, where the remission rate was 50pc, and were then transferred to complete their sentences here, where the remission rate was 25pc.