Justice Minister Helen McEntee has ruled out the idea of making treatment programmes for prison sex offenders mandatory, despite previously supporting sexual consent classes for primary school students.

According to the Irish Prison Service, just one out of eight (12.5%) jailed sex offenders avail of the Irish prison service’s treatment programme. From 2016 to the end of 2019, only 55 sex offenders took part in the Building Better Lives programme (BBL).

Independent TD, Denis Naughten, criticised the government’s handling of sex crime, stating that there is an urgent need to reform monitoring of sex offenders once they are released back into communities.

Minister McEntee said that BBL “is an intensive programme aimed at a certain cohort of sex offenders, and like all treatment programmes available for people convicted of sexual violence, it is voluntary in nature.”

“Treatment programmes of any kind are generally only effective where the person concerned accepts that their behaviour has caused serious harm and wants to take ownership to change their own behaviour.”

However, as recently as October, McEntee was discussing having “consent classes” at schools in an effort to prevent sex crime.

As reported by the Irish Examiner:

“A range of initiatives will also be taken to educate people around the meaning of consent including a major awareness campaign and a number of actions within primary, secondary- and third-level education.”

In other words, young boys in primary school, who are guilty of no crime, will be taught how not to be sex offenders, but actual sex offenders can choose to opt out of treatment programmes if they so choose.

Ireland has seen a dramatic increase in sex crime in recent years, with rates of rape and sexual assault reaching record levels year after year.