Chemical castration option `explored'

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The Independent Online
Convicted sex offenders could soon be chemically castrated, according to the Prison Service. Michael Streeter, Legal Affairs Correspondent, hears some experts say the treatment is of limited value.

The Prison Service said yesterday that it was "exploring" how to treat sex offenders with anti-libidinal drugs. So-called "chemical castration" would be part of the already established Sex Offenders Treatment Programme for rapists and paedophiles, and would run alongside psychological programmes.

It would be the first time that the Prison Service, whose statement was a response to a World in Action television documentary last night, formally adopted such a drastic programme, although individual prison doctors do use the drug treatment.

However, experts yesterday doubted whether the use of such drugs - which can be given only with the consent of patients - would have more than "very limited" effect in treating the 4,270 convicted sex offenders currently in British prisons.

One experienced psychiatrist, who has prescribed the drugs to sex offenders, praised the Home Office for their initiative but warned against expecting too much.

The doctor, who asked not to be named, said the reasons why people committed sexual offences were complex and included personal or family problems, aggression and a desire to humiliate or dominate victims. "It is not just about their sex drive. The drugs may reduce the sex drive and in some cases affect their ability to carry out an attack, but may not stop someone's desire to carry out such an attack," he said.

He added that, potentially, the drugs, which can be given as tablets twice a day or injections every three months, could even increase someone's aggression by making them frustrated at being unable to gain an erection.

In a statement to the programme makers, the Prison Service said it had "identified a proportion of sex offenders for whom this psychological treatment could usefully supplemented by treatment with anti-libidinal drugs". Yesterday, the Service said it had no date for when the treatment could be adopted.

Last night's broadcast reported that the leader of a violent paedophile gang has told a fellow prisoner that he will kill again after he is released early next year.

Sidney Cooke, who has changed his name to Lomas in an attempt to escape the paedophile register, was jailed in 1989 after running the gang which raped and strangled Jason Swift, a 14-year-old runaway.

Cooke's former cellmate, known only as Leslie, said: "He thinks of kids as meat ... the minute he walks out of the gate, no young boy will be safe."