Saturday, 16 March 2013

Re Cardinal Wilfred Fox: is paedophilia an illness?

The Catholic Archbishop of Durban, Wilfrid Fox Napier, has described paedophilia as a psychological "illness, not a criminal condition". He goes on to state that “I don't think you can really take the position and say that person deserves to be punished. He was himself damaged."

I've been meaning to- very carefully- put forward my opinions on this issue, and this news story presents the perfect opportunity to discuss paedophilia properly.

Like most people, I have no sympathy or empathy for the average paedo. When stories of child sex abuse hit the news, I feel the same sense of anger at the accused and the same sense of pity for the child as the average person. But surely, emotions towards the subject may cloud our judgement, particularly if we have children of our own or if we personally know a victim. Let's not lose sight of the most important issue in the middle of this: the safety of children. What can be done to keep our children away from sexual abuse?

The first idea to come to mind may be to keep paedos out of our society, to jail them all. Well, most people caught in possession of child porn will get hauled off to prison very quickly, like Bulger killer Jon Venables

But they won't serve a life sentence over it. They'll be released at some point. Herein lies the problem: prison does not reform. It doesn't cure criminals of any nature, particularly not paedos. It keeps abusers away from children, but upon their release, they'll still be a paedophile.

Take Roy Whiting, for instance. Whiting abducted and sexually assaulted an eight-year-old girl in '95. He should have received 30 years, by law. He served only 4. 4 years later, he raped and murdered 8-year-old Sarah Payne.

What this goes to show is that the only benefit to jailing a paedophile is that they are kept away from our children. Prison, clearly, does not reform anyone, especially not paedophiles. Would it not be fair to say, in that case, that to stop someone from being a paedo they need a different kind of treatment to being arbitrarily bunged in a prison cell? Yes, we could jail them all for life. All 2000 people. Every year. Do you know how much of your taxes would go into building the prisons to house them all? Indefinitely? Impractical.

So. We can't set them free with the system as it is, as they are a danger to the public. We can't keep them in prisons as there are just too many offenders, and prison won't reform them anyway. So what can we do? The Telegraph recently reported that chemical castration may be the answer

Evidence from Scandanavia suggests chemical castration can cut the rates of reoffending from 40 per cent to 5 per cent... The treatment is being piloted by psychiatrists at HMP Whatton, Nottingham, a specialist category C prison which holds male sex offenders.”

As much as we want to punish those who harm the innocent ones of our society, we mustn't lose sight of the paramount issue: safety of children. If it works in Scandanavia, why can't it work here? Of course, whether this is really what Archbishop Fox Napier really had in mind is debateable. Castration will change a man physically. Wouldn't coupling this with psychiatric treatment, as Napier suggests, reduce further the chances of paedos re-offending?

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