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Support for child abusers after jail

HIGH-risk paedophiles should be released into the community, using trained volunteers, a report commissioned by the Probation Service recommends.

The report recommends piloting a scheme, already used effectively in Canada and England, which employs "inner circles" of trained volunteers to help socially isolated child sex offenders to re-integrate into the community.

The 'Circles of Support and Accountability' (COSA) scheme sets up a weekly formal meeting, as well as organising more informal social outings, such as cinema trips or going for a coffee.

These are designed to show offenders how 'normal' adult relationships are conducted.

The volunteers are supported by a professional co-ordinator, usually a probation officer, and they try to encourage the offender to stop justifying their crimes and confront their behaviour.

Evaluations of the scheme in Canada and England have shown that it is effective at "significantly reducing the rate of total re-offending and sexual re-offending" of participants by up to 70pc and that the groups also work as an "early-warning" system for potential re- offending.

Last February the Probation Service commissioned a study to examine whether COSA could be introduced in Ireland.

After consulting with a range of groups, the authors of the study found "widespread support for the establishment of COSA in Ireland".

It recommended that a pilot scheme be put in place at a total cost of €215,000.

Irish Independent