| 9.2°C Dublin

Paedophiles chemically castrated in British jail while treatment a choice for Irish sex offenders

AROUND one hundred child sex offenders have undergone chemical castration under a British government programme to reduce the likelihood of them reoffending.

The paedophiles volunteered for a course of drugs designed to reduce their testosterone levels to that of a prepubescent boy in order to curb their libido.

In Ireland sex offenders, mostly incarcerated in Arbour Hill prison in Dublin, can choose to undergo a counseling treatment programme or not.

The chemical castration treatment is being piloted by psychiatrists at HMP Whatton, Nottingham, a specialist category C prison which holds male sex offenders.

The drug, leuprorelin, which is marketed as Prostap, inhibits the production of testosterone, which is linked to the high sex drives in paedophiles.

The programme is run by the Prison Service and the Department of Health and has been co-ordinated by criminal psychiatrist Professor Don Grubin.

He said: "I have referred around 100 people for treatment. It is still ongoing but I do not have anything to do with the treatment. They come to me in the first instance to see whether the treatment is appropriate for them.

"We know the treatment works to reduce sexual arousal and fantasies."

Evidence from Scandanavia suggests chemical castration can cut the rates of reoffending from 40 per cent to 5 per cent.

Guidance on the medication says it should be used for those with compulsive or impulsive urges to offend, those who have difficulties in controlling sexual arousal, intrusive sexual fantasies or urges, sadism or other "dangerous" tendencies such as necrophilia.

But it stresses: "It is anticipated only small numbers of sex offenders will benefit from these treatments."

The programme has divided professional opinion.

Psychologist Dr Ludwig Lowenstein told the Daily Mirror: "Apart from lengthy jail sentences, the only other way to deal with most of these people is through chemical castration.

"The idea of giving sexual offenders a pill to destroy their ability to have intercourse always provokes fierce objections on the grounds of civil liberties. But a child's right to protection is far more morally important than the freedoms of paedophiles."

But Frances Cook, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "Sex offending is often not about sex at all, but about violence and domination. The drugs used will not affect those attitudes."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "We support the use of pharmaceutical interventions for high risk sex offenders given the evidence that it can be useful in reducing risk for some perpetrators."

Chemical castration is mandatory for child sex offenders in Poland, Russia and certain US states.