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Friday, July 23, 1999 Published at 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK


Call to 'break cycle of abuse'

Abused children can go on to become paedophiles

A national network of treatment centres for potential paedophiles is urgently needed to reduce child abuse, says a leading children's charity.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) says it believes the case of Dominic McKilligan, found guilty of raping and murdering an 11 year old, is a strong argument for a national network of early treatment centres for child sex offenders, some of whom may be as young as five.

McKilligan had been assessed by an NSPCC treatment centre when he was 14 and found to be a very grave risk to children.

"He was very disturbed and dangerous," said a spokesperson.

McKilligan was then sent to Aycliffe for treatment, where he was reported to be responding well.

The NSPCC says treatment usually has a very high success rate in reducing reoffending.

At one project, only three of 59 sex offenders has gone on to reoffend following treatment.

The usual reoffending rate can be as high as 20%.

"Without intervention, their behaviour can get much worse. Many have themselves been abused. It is a very vicious circle," said the spokesperson.

National guidelines

During treatment, offenders are brought face to face with the impact of abuse on their victims, have to confront why they offend and to try and modify their behaviour.

The NSPCC is launching 12 new treatment centres this year at a cost of £2m, but says a national network is needed, funded by the government.

This would involve centres in every local area, run in by a partnership of voluntary and statutory agencies.

The NSPCC also wants national guidelines for social services, police and other agencies on how they should work together to manage young sex offenders.

"One of the problems is that they fall between different departments. A cross-departmental approach is needed as well as greater general awareness of the signs of future offending behaviour," said the spokesperson.

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