Treating sex offenders with ‘chemical castration’ is to be reviewed by the SNP Government.
In Scotland drugs to reduce an offenders libido are only offered to sex offenders on a voluntary basis. They act to suppress sexual urges and the ability to act on such impulses, although evidence for their effectiveness is mixed.
Last year, Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership carried out a pilot scheme to trial the use of the drugs with sex offenders living in the community after serving their sentences. The drugs would be used on a case by case basis, when appropriate.
Now the SNP Government is to publish new rules for doctors, social workers and prison officers on the wider use of the drugs.
Kenneth Gibson MSP said:
“There is already a well-established procedure for the prescription of anti-libidinal drugs in Scotland. Theses are only appropriate for a limited number of sex offenders and are used on a voluntary basis. This practice is currently under review and draft updated guidelines will be published shortly.”
Ministers want to update the existing 2010 guidance on the medical treatment of sexual offenders. This states that anti-libidinal drugs can reduce testosterone levels in offenders to those found in pre-pubescent boys, “thereby decreasing sexual interest and arousal.”
Although offenders can still be sexually aroused, they are generally less interested in sex with “a great reduction in spontaneous sexual behaviour”. However, the drugs can take months to work and are not intended to be the sole form of treatment for sex offenders.
An alternative – using anti-depressants such as SSRIs – is also advocated to reduce the intensity of sexual fantasies and sexual urges, to enable the offender to control them better. Nevertheless “The effect is not predictable.”
Following publication of the 2010 guidance, the SNP Government established a network of psychiatrists to assess sex offenders for possible treatment. Chemical methods should be considered when offenders are preparing for release into the community, particularly where other methods have failed to control “hypersexual arousal,” or “deviant fantasies and arousal”.
The review would not make chemical castration compulsory, but aim to look at the evidence to see which offenders it should be offered to.
The move comes amid concern that while sex offenders have a lower rate of reoffending than those convicted of many other crimes, the success rate of programmes attempting to reduce reoffending is poor.
This programme, Moving Forward, Changing Lives, used both with inmates held in the Scottish Prison Service and those managed by police and social services in the community, aims to work with convicted sex offenders on a primarily psychological basis.
It aims to tailor help to individual sex offenders asked to admit their behaviour and look at ways of changing it. This intervention programme helps to prevent sex offenders from committing further crimes.