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Saturday 7 December 2019

Sex offenders in treatment 'do not deserve cut in jail term'

Breda Heffernan and Michael Brennan

SEX offenders should not be given shorter sentences in return for taking part in treatment programmes in prison, a leading child protection campaigner said last night.

Abuse survivor Andrew Madden, who has spoken publicly about the abuse he suffered as a child in the Dublin Archdiocese, warned that those prisoners who do not take part in programmes must be considered high-risk upon their release and should be strictly monitored.

Mr Madden will address the Fine Gael national conference in Killarney, Co Kerry, this afternoon where he will tell delegates that more needs to be done to protect children across a range of areas.

He will say that just because the Murphy report into clerical sex abuse in Dublin has been published it does not mean that the fight for children's rights has ended.

"The Children First Guidelines need to be put on a statutory basis as a matter of urgency -- the current Government's plans do not go far enough in this regard and the promise to have legislation drafted by the end of the year does not demonstrate an appreciation of the need to enhance child protection measures now," he said yesterday.

Mr Madden has refused to rule out entering politics to advance the case for ensuring the welfare and safety of children.

However, last night he insisted that he had not yet been approached by any party about a potential election run.

Fine Gael last night refused to say if they had approached Mr Madden about joining the party.


"We don't talk about candidate selection," a spokesman told the Irish Independent.

A party source pointed out Fine Gael had lined up a range of other speakers for its national conference to broaden the debate including crime journalist Paul Williams and economist Eddie Hobbs.

Mr Madden has previously raised a number of concerns about the monitoring of sex offenders upon release from prison and said that lax practices here in Ireland have made it an attractive destination for paedophiles from other countries.

He has argued that all offenders should be considered high-risk on leaving prison and they should only be downgraded as time goes on.

Mr Madden will tell today's conference that post-prison supervision is "almost non-existent" and that most offenders are released without any supervision at all.

He will also raise concerns over a proposal from Justice Minister Dermot Ahern that those sex offenders who take part in treatment programmes in prison are fitted with electronic tags and granted temporary release in the final months of their sentence.

Under the current regime, rapists and child abusers cannot avail of release programmes and Mr Madden has said he opposes any change to this.

"It is not appropriate to offer shorter sentences to offenders who participate in treatment programmes in prison, as the current Justice Minister has proposed.

"Those who don't participate voluntarily should be considered very high risk on release and should be monitored accordingly," he added.

Irish Independent

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