Saturday, September 11, 2010

Monitor / Support Sex Offenders

Tonight the Sunday Times claims that tomorrow it will reveal the whereabouts of convicted rapist Larry Murphy who was released from prison recently. It is not the first time newspapers have taken to revealing such details about such offenders but I don’t think it’s the job of media to monitor sex offenders. That is the responsibility of the State and it is imperative that we all insist that Government rises to this responsibility.

The monitoring and support of convicted sex offenders in Ireland is almost non-existent. Sex offenders who have served their sentences are generally released into the community without supervision, though some may be under the supervision of the Probation and Welfare Service. The requirements of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 do not mean that there is any real supervision. ... and that’s not just my view, they are the words of Judge Yvonne Murphy in the Murphy Report.

There is an urgent need for changes to this system to be made ...

• There is no actual sex offenders’ register. Released offenders simply notify the Gardai of their intended residential address. A multi-agency approach to the support and monitoring of released offenders must be developed along with a more stringent regime of signing on procedures with regular personal visits to Garda stations by released offenders.

• All convicted sex offenders should be considered High Risk on release and should be monitored & supported accordingly. All such offenders should be subject to a Post Release Supervision Order which should be put in place at the time the offender is being released and not at the time of sentencing which is currently the case.

• Those responsible for monitoring sex offenders should have the powers and the resources to make regular unannounced visits to the homes of released sex offenders.

• Monitoring of sex offenders should include polygraph testing, electronic tagging, curfews and other restrictions, for example an offender who only ever abuses children after he/she has taken alcohol should have it as a condition of their release that they don’t consume alcohol.

• Parents and Guardians should be able to register a concern with authorities about any individual who has access to their children about whom they are genuinely worried and in some cases it should be possible for them to be told if such an individual is a known sex offender or not. This measure is already being rolled out in the UK, having being piloted to great effect over the last eighteen months the pilot scheme in four counties saw one in ten calls to police uncover evidence of a criminal past. Out of 315 applications for information from concerned parents, details of 21 paedophiles were revealed, these were sex offenders known to the authorities who were putting themselves in a position of having access to children again, and they were stopped because those parents could register their concerns and access this information.

• Finally, 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.

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