Controversy is growing in France on ways to fight paedophilia following a scandal involving a repeat offender who raped a five-year old last week. Francis Evrard had recently been released from jail where he spent 18 years for the rape of two young boys.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy has made the case his own. During a ministerial meeting, new measures were drawn up, including an ban on reduced sentences for sex offenders. “Once they have served their time, offenders of this kind will be examined by a group of doctors,” said Sarkozy. “If the doctors say they are still dangerous, they won’t be allowed to go free but will be locked up in hospital.”
Such hospitals already exist in Germany, but not everyone welcomes the proposal. Francois Bes from the prisons’ watchdog, the International Prisons’ Observatory, says: “To bring in this kind of compulsory measure after the prison sentence doesn’t make any sense. The offender should receive treatment while he is in jail. This is a way of not recognising the failures of the current system.”
Under the new legislation to go before parliament in November, former offenders who agree to undergo treatment will be allowed leave from hospital on the condition they agree to wear an electronic bracelet. Chemical castration on a voluntary basis will also be proposed to ex-offenders if it is deemed necessary.
While tests in other countries have shown these measures can help reduce repeat offences, they cannot eradicate all risk. Psychiatrist Serge Stoleru: “It’s got to be clear that these methods are limited to the most severe cases, i.e. paedophiles who re-offend because they can’t control their pulsions because they’re too strong. It’s a treatment which mustn’t be interrupted, and which must be combined with psychotherapy.”
That is where the main problem lies today according to most experts: paedophiles, like many other inmates, fail to receive adequate treatment in jail, or the necessary follow-up after.