France considers chemical castration for sex offenders

France is considering forcing some sex offenders to undergo chemical castration, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said today, days after a brutal murder by a recently released prisoner.

A 42-year-old woman jogging in Fontainebleau forest near Paris was abducted on Monday and strangled to death by a recently released rapist, who has confessed to the crime, police say.

Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie and the spokesman for the ruling UMP party have both called for compulsory chemical castration for some offenders, and Fillon said the government was preparing legislation.

"We are not ruling out any line of reflection on any subject," he told a news conference after a meeting on crime prevention with ministers.

France, along with a number of other European countries including Sweden and Denmark, already allows the use of drugs to lower the sex drive of offenders who agree to it.

"Chemical castration exists today, it just depends on an agreement by the person concerned," Fillon said.

"We have to look at how, as part of surveillance and control measures after someone leaves prison, we might make this more restrictive if necessary. It's a subject we are working on and we will make proposals to parliament in that direction."

Poland last month approved a law making chemical castration, which lowers sex drive for as long as the drugs are taken, mandatory for some paedophiles. Several US states also enforce similar measures.

In France, the debate was ignited by the case of Marie-Christine Hodeau, who called police to say she had been kidnapped and was locked in the trunk of her abductor's car. After the call was cut off, a huge manhunt was launched.

Caught by police, Manuel da Cruz told them he had tied Hodeau to a tree while he changed cars. When she freed herself and tried to escape, he caught her and strangled her, according to a police account of his confession.

Public shock was compounded by questions over whether da Cruz had been placed under adequate supervision and control after his release from prison in 2007.

Cruz had served 7 years of an 11-year sentence for kidnapping and raping a young girl, and moved back to the neighbourhood where the girl's family lived after the expiry of a supervision order in 2008.

Fillon said the murder could "very probably have been avoided by better surveillance of the delinquent in question, who was known".

President Nicolas Sarkozy this week called for closer supervision of prisoners after their release, and a review of France's criminal psychiatry system.

Government critics and the main magistrates' union say existing laws are adequate but that enforcement is hampered by a lack of resources for police, magistrates and social services.

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