Success of sex abuse treatment highlighted

Only four out of 114 sex offenders who underwent treatment at a specialist abuse organisation have re-offended.

One in Four said the figures were “quite extraordinary” given the damage the individuals could have done otherwise.

Maeve Lewis, executive director, said the voluntary- body was one of only two community-based sex offender programmes in the country. She said there should be one in “every single county”, as long as they were run by appropriately skilled and qualified staff.

Speaking at the launch of the body’s 2013 annual report, Ms Lewis said restorative justice programmes — involving both offender and victim — offered a possible way forward.

She said the Government had indicated that the lack of treatment for offenders needed to be addressed and that it was beginning to consider restorative justice.

Launching the report, Kathleen Lynch, minister of state at the departments of health and justice, commended the report and the work of the body.

She said the Government was going to “take a serious look” at extending services.

Ms Lynch said every prison needed to have treatment programmes for sex offenders and that the state needed to be able to track and support offenders in the community. Ms Lewis said One in Four set up the Phoenix Programme in 2008 and treated 30 people last year.

“Since the programme started there has been 114 sex offenders and to the best of our knowledge only four re-offended,” she said. “This is quite extraordinary, when you consider the damage these men could have done on an ongoing basis.”

She said the organisation does not talk about curing offenders, but “managing” them, which was done in conjunction with the Child and Family Agency and gardaí.

Ms Lewis said One in Four was noticing a rise in the number of young offenders, with those aged 18 to 29 accounting for 23% of perpetrators. She said many of those view child sex abuse online before moving on to abuse children.

She said fewer than 15% of clients report to gardaí and that a restorative justice programme for six families is under way. She said it can work if there are good facilitators and if offenders are genuinely remorseful.

She noted there had been a shift in victims of sexual abuse, with those abused within families accounting for a greater percentage than those who were victims of Catholic priests.

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