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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 September, 2004, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
How paedophiles will be treated
As the government unveils plans for residential centres to treat sex offenders, BBC News Online examines what form of therapy paedophiles will receive.

Children in shadow
Sex offender hostels reduce reconviction rates, research says

There is no quick-fix in the rehabilitation of sex offenders.

The residential centres proposed by the government will adopt a long-term approach to treatment.

Residents will undergo cognitive therapy, a form of psychotherapy based on the belief that psychological problems are the products of faulty ways of thinking about the world.

It is envisaged residents will spend about a year at the centres where they will work in groups and on an individual basis.

Therapy will be tailored to the individual offender but a standard course could be two two-hour group sessions a week.

Staff will encourage them to face up to the impact of the crimes on their victims and explore the underlying reasons which made them offend.

Close supervision

They will not be confined solely to the hostel's grounds.

A Home Office spokeswoman said the model being adopted is based closely the Wolvercote Clinic, which closed two years ago, with "the aim of offering a structured programme of intervention to change behaviour".

The clinic was based in Epsom, Surrey, but folded after a proposed move had to be dropped after local opposition.

The average stay at the clinic was 11.5 months and residents were closely supervised by staff who were on duty 24 hours a day.

Sex offenders are the most recalcitrant and intractable offenders. And unfortunately, they are the most difficult to rehabilitate
Professor Christopher Cordess, a professor forensic psychiatry
During their stay, each offender had a strategy developed to help them deal with risk situations that could occur when they had finished their treatment.

A National Probation Service report, released as the Home Office announced its plans for the new centres, found the clinic reduced reconviction rates from 30% to 10%.

Of the residents deemed to be treated, none were reconvicted. Of those classed as untreated, 86% did not reconvict.

Harry Fletcher, the assistant general secretary of probation union Napo, said if the treatment was to work the right offenders had to be chosen.

Complex

"It is complex therapy but the emerging evidence suggests that providing the offenders are targeted effectively - and by that I mean they are literate and don't have mental health or alcohol problems - reconvictions rates can be reduced.

"Dealing with their crimes within peer groups is the best way to get these people to face up to their crimes."

But Professor Christopher Cordess, emeritus professor of forensic psychiatry at the University of Sheffield, does not share the view that the residential centres will help.

He said the rehabilitation figures put forward by the government were "hugely optimistic".

"Sex offenders are the most recalcitrant and intractable offenders. And, unfortunately, they are the most difficult to rehabilitate.

"Much as it grieves me not to support a therapeutic approach, I don't think it will work.

"People are right not to want these centres near their homes."


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