Wed, Nov 17, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Greater flexibility in sex offender treatment mooted

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) will propose amendments to the law to seek greater flexibility in treatments for released sex offenders.

In a conference last week on revising the Sexual Offence Crime Prevention Law (性侵犯罪防治法) and Regulations Governing Sex Offender Treatments (性侵害犯罪加害人身心治療及輔導教育辦法), several proposed amendments were agreed upon by academics and experts.

"All sex offenders who have been convicted must receive at least one year of treatment upon returning to a public community," Lin Tsyr-ling (林慈玲), executive secretary of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Committee under the ministry, said yesterday.

"However, such rigid regulations might not be necessary for some individuals," said Lin. "Therefore, one of the amendments suggested last week was to reduce the minimum treatment period to three months."

The regulations stipulate that any individual who has been convicted of a sexual crime has to undergo a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years treatment conducted by social workers assigned by regional governments.

However, Lin pointed out, there were two exceptions to which this long-term treatment could be waived, and for which more flexible regulations are needed.

"The first would be minors who engage in sexual conduct by mutual consent," Lin said. "Normally, prosecutors won't press charges against the `offender' unless the parents of the `victim' really want to do so. The second would be [released] sex offenders who have already served sentences and suffer ailments that limit their mobility."

According to the Criminal Code, an individual who has sexual relations with a female person under the age of 16 shall face imprisonment; this type of sexual offense is quite common among the cases that cross the committee's desk.

An example to illustrate the second type of exception is former convicts who suffer from serious physical disabilities, such as blindness.

"Given their physical constraints, undergoing regular treatment with social workers would be quite a strain," Lin remarked. "These two exceptions are not what we consider typical offenders."

Another proposed amendment aims to ensure that released sex offenders continue their treatment even if they are called up for military service.

"The Ministry of Defense has agreed to let these individuals meet their treatment schedules with social workers from a regional social affairs bureau," Lin said.

"These treatments should not be discontinued due to military service," Lin said.

Currently, there is no legislation that requires former sex offenders to be registered with local authorities or to have their information made available to the communities they have moved into.

"In the United States, different states establish their respective regulations to determine whether a [released] sex offender should register with a local authority or whether such an authority could disclose such information to local residents," Lin said.

"However, in Taiwan, similar laws has been controversial and much debated among human rights and women's groups over the years," Lin said.

The police do have the right to pay periodic visits on released sex offenders, in order to help keep recidivism in check.

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