Vigilante attacks 'will send child rapist underground where he will be most dangerous'
Published 23/07/2015 | 06:35
Vigilante attacks on a convicted sex offender could drive him underground an expert has warned.
The caution comes following the second violent attack on convicted child rapist Danny Ward in Dublin.
Maeve Lewis, the executive director of One in Four - which works with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse - has cautioned that violent vigilantism could potentially make him more dangerous.
"I suspect what will happen is that man is going to go underground and that is when he will be most dangerous," she warned.
Last week the Herald published images showing Ward being punched and kicked in what appeared to be the foyer of a garda station.
It is the second attack on him this year - in June he was driven out of Ringsend by a vigilante mob.
"I can really understand how terrified people are that their children might be abused and that a sex offender might be living in their area and they don't know about it," Ms Lewis told the Herald.
"On the other hand, only about one-in-20 child abusers are ever convicted for their crimes, meaning that there are many, many sex offenders living in our communities that we're not aware of."
"If somebody is convicted and their name is made public and it results in the kind of vigilantism we saw last week, the end result is probably to drive people underground," she added.
"When sex offenders are isolated in that way or hidden and frightened, that's when they become really dangerous and when children are most at risk."
Treatment for sex offenders is limited in Ireland Ms Lewis pointed out, and added that research around the world shows the re-offending rate is much lower where treatment is provided.
"Offenders are at their most dangerous when they are socially isolated, unemployed and on the run, as that man is likely to be," Ms Lewis continued.
If sex offenders are given the opportunity to integrate into a community and find employment and social supports, children are likely to be safer, she explained.
One in Four runs a treatment program for sex offenders, but it is only one of two places in the country to do so.
A national treatment program is needed Ms Lewis said.