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On iPM tonight: chemical castration.

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Eddie Mair | 17:00 UK time, Saturday, 3 April 2010

In the run up to the General Election, we're offering listeners the chance to ask the sort of questions they don't hear being addressed.

One listener wanted to know about policies to improve the happiness and well-being of children. Someone else wanted to know why the railways shouldn't be renationalised.

This week, one of our listeners wants to ask politicians: "Do you think some rapists should be chemically castrated?"

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In our programme we also hear from one man who has been a serial sex offender, but who's undergone treatment known as chemical castration.

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  • 1. At 6:01pm on 03 Apr 2010, Sally wrote:

    Thank you for your interview with the sex offender broadcast tonight. It is so rare that those whom society brand as 'evil' are allowed to have their voices heard in the media. The humanity of the interviewee really came across, as did the impression that he is battling something he has can not control without help, in the same way that people battle against other mental illnesses or physical ones like cancer. I hope this broadcast help in changing the perception of our most hated group of individuals. They're people just like you and me.

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  • 2. At 6:33pm on 03 Apr 2010, Sindy wrote:

    Sally - well said.

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  • 3. At 6:39pm on 03 Apr 2010, Big Sister wrote:

    Absolutely agree. A very interesting listen.

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  • 4. At 6:39pm on 03 Apr 2010, Redheylin wrote:

    Yes - you were right to say that sexual offences sometimes seem even to trump murder. Lately we find that the church, charged with our sexual morality, has instead purveyed ignorance and guilt, and itself is a major source of perversion. The government deals with this by making it illegal for teenagers to kiss. PM responds by talking about cosmic forces of evil.

    But for a moment Eddie approached the threshold of talking about the issue in the way any intelligent person would - and the terms is which this ex-criminal was talking - for whether speaking about sex-attacks, murders, theft, violence, the question is; at one point do you block out normal, decent respect for the other person? When you think you won't get caught? When your feelings are overwhelming? When you're desperate? Or, maybe, did that normal empathy get blotted out by events? Did it happen so early that it's hard-wired in you, a permanent switch-off?

    It's the capacity to violate others that matters, if you want to talk about the causes of crime, not the nature of the violation.

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  • 5. At 7:47pm on 03 Apr 2010, Neville Topham wrote:

    Whilst the offender was open and honest with his current position and the help he has sought to modify his behaviour,which I found admirable. I would have been interested to learn how he arrived at this position as were this to have been attained at a much earlier stage some of his victims may well have been spared their experience and the consequences involved. I fear were their to be any moves as to see this as appropriate in all situations would raise Human Rights issues these days.Furthermore, one should not assume that offenders will no longer present any further displays of their previous behaviours as they must continue to be compliant with medication prescribed

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  • 6. At 9:40pm on 03 Apr 2010, newlach wrote:

    The interview with the hebephile was very good and provided an insight into the issue from the sex criminal's perspective. The research carried out in Sweden (900 chemically castrated men) revealed that only 2 per cent of them re-offended. The professor at Newcastle University said drug treatment would be appropriate for between 5 - 10 per cent of all sex criminals. Seems like a progressive step to take in my opinion.

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  • 7. At 09:51am on 04 Apr 2010, davmcn wrote:

    Now let's hear from a female rapist.

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  • 8. At 2:25pm on 04 Apr 2010, BluesBerry wrote:

    How can society trust that the rapist will take the chemicals?
    Some rapists are profoundly disturbed. Some rapists sole reason for living is the enaction of their sexual fantasies.
    I don't believe that paedophiles can be successfully treated through therapy or chemical castration.
    Other sex offenders – maybe. It depends...IF their sexuial fixation is so much a part of who they are, I doubt that counselling or chemicals will fix the problem. After all, rape is first and foremost an act of rage. It has little to do with sex.
    Unfortunately chemical castration depends on chemicals – taken, untaken, sometimes taken; and in my opinion, that’s not good enough. I’m not even sure that total castration would work.
    What about the women, like Cambridge Graduate, Carol Clarke who followed children into toilets in Grimsby and other parts of Lincolnshire.
    I have no doubt that some rapists are filled with remorse, wanting desperately to be liberated from their obscenity.
    But most often: these sexual deviants have no remorse at all. They go from one offence to another because the offending is their raison d'etre.
    A child's right to safety far exceeds the rights of sexual offenders.
    Apart from lengthy prison sentences, the only other way to deal with these people is not chemical castration but physical castration.
    As soon as that method is said aloud, however, there will be objections; such objection ignores the rights of the innocents to protection.
    I say again, chemicals will lower the ability to function sexually, but the fantasies remain, waiting to be enacted.
    So, the use of a psychiatric panel to decide castration – physical, permanent castration - must be considered.
    Yet, this may not work either…because of those damned fantasies that stay locked in a sex offender’s brain.
    Perhaps the psychiatric panel should be assessing
    1. physical castration +
    2. permanent incarceration,
    depending on the history of the offender.

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  • 9. At 2:40pm on 04 Apr 2010, Sindy wrote:

    Goodness me, BluesBerry, you have got a lot of anger ...

    Steven Pinker suggests that saying that rape has nothing to do with sex is like saying that armed robbery has nothing to do with greed. I think he's probably right.

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  • 10. At 9:40pm on 04 Apr 2010, baytrees wrote:

    The IRA raised funds through armed robbery - nothing to do with greed. Armed robbery can occur out of financial desperation, business failings, to pay a ransom, blackmail, facing bankruptcy, because you're poor, to feed a drug habit. There are many reasons; greed is only one.

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  • 11. At 10:49pm on 04 Apr 2010, baytrees wrote:

    If you subscribe to evolutionary theories, then you’ll see individusls such as your interviewee, as products of the randomness of genetic variation. Nature routinely throws up those with incestual attractions, or those with homosexual attractions, or those cross-generational attractions. It also throws up those who can’t curb inherent tendencies to comply with man-made laws, or who may be risk-takers. And through randomness, it creates combinations of some or all these characteristics; your interviewee an example.

    If you belong to a religious faith, then you may well see sex offenders as “evil,” but then you’ll have difficulty reconciling this explanation with recent revelations in the Catholic Church.

    If you’re of a conservative (small ‘c’) nature, or prefer simple explanations, you’ll also find it convenient to describe them “evil,” but then you won’t be able to reconcile your position with the existence of legal sexual deviations, such as fetishes.

    Those that subscribe to evolutionary theories might question why some traits or tendencies, for example homosexuality, don’t diminish over time, but that could be explained by the graduated nature of different characteristics. Every time reproduction occurs, genetic characteristics are passed down through both male and female lines, and nature seems to produce new characteristics – or perhaps revive old characteristics from previous generations.

    In western societies, man-made laws set the boundaries, and prison is the deterrent – but evidently that doesn’t work in all cases. Prison then punishes, but what to do when they are released? Some go on to re-offend. Should they have been released at all? Why not a life sentence? If so, which offences warrant a life sentence? Maybe we should be more tolerant; first offence – 20 years, second offence – life.

    Behaviour therapy (CBT) is another possible solution, though that doesn’t seem to be very effective either; it works on some but not others.

    Chemical castration sounds like a one-off irreversible barbaric intervention, but judging from the interview it is obviously a misnomer. Taking a regular course of medication which suppresses sexual desire seems quite reasonable to me. (Isn’t bromide supposed to be a suppressant or an anaphrodisiac?) Some will take the suppressant voluntarily; others won’t, so it would have to be enforced, but a daily visit for an injection is surely better than permanent incarceration – and cheaper. And if it is as effective as some suggest – 98% effective – then I don’t see any reason why enforced medication cannot be added to the statute book as a punishment, possibly the default punishment, for serious sex offenders.

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  • 12. At 10:51pm on 04 Apr 2010, baytrees wrote:

    replace incestual with incestuous.

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  • 13. At 11:32pm on 04 Apr 2010, Sindy wrote:

    "The IRA raised funds through armed robbery - nothing to do with greed."

    And yet again we manage to demonstrate the inadequacy of a blog like this for sensible discussion.

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  • 14. At 00:16am on 05 Apr 2010, Redheylin wrote:

    Baytrees, many thanks for your exposition, particularly in respect of the futility of current affairs programmes invoking the power of "evil".

    I must comment, though, that I have come in contact with religious people who have no problem attributing evil to the RC church, since it's not their church.

    Also, people may "subscribe to theories" of evolutionary psychology, but science needs a gene-map, not a belief. The contention that sexual deviations are inherited has been quite widely enough asserted, considering the poor evidence.

    Lastly, you entirely omitted background. Yet there's nothing quite like a bit of abuse and neglect while your mind's still hardwiring to inure you to your own actions of abuse and negligence.

    Otherwise, even "evolutionary" transgressors, being possessed of empathy and reason, would simply conclude that they were anti-social, ill, and hand themselves over for treatment.

    I just wish Eddie - and he did a fine job, hats off, but - had asked that man "exactly how did you suddenly start to see what you'd done from the victim's view, and feel the need to change?"

    Mind you.... what if he said "I got religion and became a Catholic"?

    Stranger things have happened. And sorry, Catholics, no offence, they're all at it. Just, it may turn out that this is what happens when you programme the vulnerable with an unnatural set of values using the force of fear, beatings and supernatural monsters. Maybe it sends people la-la, you know? Sounds possible.

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  • 15. At 6:19pm on 05 Apr 2010, Dryopithecus wrote:

    redheylin, you want to ask "that man" "exactly how did you suddenly start to see what you'd done from the victim's view, and feel the need to change?"
    Most paedophiles, while they are active, believe they are not doing any harm. Most, in fact, believe they are improving children's quality of life and they find it difficult to believe otherwise. When confronted with evidence to the contrary, the complainants' written statements in particular, the majority will eventually come round to see that they have serously miscalculated the situation. Since (contrary to popular opinion) the vast majority of paedophiles do not wish to cause children any harm, most are willing to abstain from any behaviour that may put more children through the trauma they have already caused.

    What I'm saying is that, apart from the few who refuse to accept they have harmed their child friends, paedophiles deserve help, not further punishment.

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  • 16. At 11:59am on 06 Apr 2010, Neville Topham wrote:

    In response to Dryopethicus.
    Whilst I share your opinion on how effective the penal system is in rehabilitating offenders of various crimes.
    I might even go so far as to agree that subject to professional assessment treatment may well outweigh incarseration.
    In do find the way in which you seek to give credence to your views, by leading one to believe that you know either most or the majority of paedophiles,further more, their views of their actions post purportation.
    I would view myself as associated with the majority of sectors of our society yet I do not recall having ever met any person who has displayed paediophilic tendancies.
    I feel that for future reference you might consider enlightening readers here as to how you have come into contact with the group you say most or the majority of persons in that group.
    Your conclusions are worthy of reading but I feel that you belittle what you have to say by making comments regarding the degree of personal experienceas the source of your views on this matter.

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  • 17. At 2:47pm on 06 Apr 2010, Dryopithecus wrote:

    Neville, thanks for your response. Unfortunately, I'm unable to reveal any of my direct sources but I do know some people who know more about this than I do & I may be able to give you some published sources when I can find the references. I have to go out now but if you keep an eye on this message board, I shall get back to you.

    Unfortunately, ignorance and prejudice, aggravated by popular newspapers, prevent most people from looking at this problem objectively. The general public thus has little interest in the efficacy of offending behaviour programmes, preferring instead to advocate incarceration and punishment as the only solutions.

    Thanks for listening, Dry.

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  • 18. At 09:19am on 07 Apr 2010, Neville Topham wrote:

    Dear Dryopethicus.
    I think that this matter need little more debate between us,at the risk of boring other people who have some interest,I shall seek to conclude matters
    Psychological theory universally accepts that punitive responses often increase the likelihood of a reputition in negative behaviours
    We do not share wholistically your view that the general public has little interest in effective solutions being employed in response to offending behaviours, I think the majority would wish to see a reduction of such behaviour, by any means.
    In relation to incarceration. I view this in the same light as chemical intervention in cases of Mental Health problems.This being a means of control until the fruits of a more theraputic approach can be employed to good effect.
    In a nutshell were institutions that hold people on instruction of the court system are so highly populated that few people come from the system having had little assessment or action taken to reduce the risk of further offending behaviours.
    In relation to the papers I agree they will do whatever they can to sensationalise situations, in the interest of selling more papers.

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  • 19. At 1:11pm on 07 Apr 2010, newlach wrote:

    Is the penal system bad at dealing with offenders because so many offenders are locked up for so little time and the time that they spend in prison is quite "cushy"?

    On another point, I remember listening to someone speaking on the subject of paedophiles working in schools, a psychologist. He made a point that seemed very strange to me: that some people who had not committed paedophilia offences would commit them precisely because they had passed security clearance to work in schools, were with children, and believed that they would not come under suspicion. The number involved would of course be very small, but it is a state of mind that I do not understand.

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  • 20. At 01:12am on 09 Apr 2010, Neville Topham wrote:

    Dear Newlach.
    I do not share your views on longer sentences by definition would reduce reoffending. I might suggest that people who have served long sentences may well be more likely to reoffend soon after release from the penal system,as they have become institutionalised and can not cope in normal society and reoffend to go back to where they feel secure.
    In relation to your views on the penal system being "Cushy",I am afraid this may well seem to be the case.But in fairness to those who work in the system,the current overcrowding in prisons would seem to dictate that the system is limited in what it can do in relation to preventing reoffending.
    In relation to the psychologists comments,I think what he should have said all people who are in a position of trust,that come into contact with children who tradtionally are taught that such people are worthy of their trust are often subjected to abuse from the same people,I am not sure that passing the advanced CRB check has any direct bearing on the reason this is the case, other than all people who work with vunerable people have to pass this.
    Paediophilia is a much more widely reported thing these days as is homosexuality. I do not see that there are anymore incidences than was previously the case,it would seem that there is a greater openess to people coming forward to report such matters, when previously such incidences often went unreported, as victims were often ignored if they raised issues and for all they knew was that this was part of growing up and thus normal. I trust that this response will help your understanding.

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  • 21. At 02:34am on 15 Apr 2010, Ken Johnson wrote:

    @newlach: Of course. And shoplifters should have their hands chemically amputated.

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