NIO Set To Consider The ‘Chemical Castration’ Of Sex Offenders

The Northern Ireland Office is considering the introduction of tough new child sex offender legislation which includes the “chemical castration” of some offenders.

Just hours after a new pilot scheme to deal with paedophiles and sex offenders was announced for parts of England and Wales, the Northern Ireland Criminal Justice Minister Maria Eagle said she would study the recommendations and how they could be applied in the province.

The Home Office plans include offering drug treatments to child sex offenders to try to stop them committing more crimes. The treatment, involving libido-reducing drugs or anti-depressants, would be given on a voluntary basis. Also, the scheme would give parents, guardians and carers access to information about convicted paedophiles. They will be able to ask whether a person who has contact with their child is a sex offender.

While the plans have been welcomed as a “massive step forward” by those campaigning for parents to be given lists of serious child sex offenders living in their community, it falls short of the US’s Megan’s Law which allows communities to know the whereabouts of offenders.

Convicted paedophiles in England and Wales will also be subjected to lie detector tests if there is a suspicion they are targeting children.

The plans were announced yesterday by Home Secretary John Reid who said he was introducing 20 measures aimed at strengthening the way child sex offenders were dealt with. The scheme will be piloted in three areas in England and Wales as soon as legislation can be introduced – from around April 2008.

Yesterday, in a response to a question from Lady Sylvia Hermon MP about the Northern Ireland government’s intentions for the pilot scheme, Ms Eagle said: “We will be carefully studying the recommendations in the Child Sex Offender Review and how they could be applied in Northern Ireland.

“Some are likely to be subject to pilot schemes in England and Wales and we will await the outcome of those trials before decisions are taken on the way forward.”

Northern Ireland remains behind the rest of the UK in terms of the punishment and management of dangerous offenders. Legislation to replace Ulster’s controversial 50% remission scheme which allows the release of sex offenders half way through their sentence has yet to be introduced.