Victims’ rights groups and lawmakers yesterday urged the Council of Grand Justices to uphold the involuntary psychiatric treatment of sex offenders as the council is to hand down a ruling on the practice today.
A request for a constitutional interpretation was filed by a Taichung man, Lu En-pen (盧恩本), who in 2007 was convicted of groping a minor after he broke into a residence. Lu was sentenced to three years in prison.
After completing his sentence, Lu was involuntarily committed to psychiatric treatment for an additional nine years until the Taiwan High Court’s Taichung branch ordered his release on Sept. 11.
Photo: Chang Jui-chen, Taipei Times
Lu and his lawyers in a filing asked the council to determine whether the indefinite commitment of sex offenders to psychiatric facilities was a breach of habeas corpus and the proportionality principle, among other issues.
Lu’s case would have bearing on Article 9 of the Criminal Code, Article 22 of the Sexual Assault Crime Prevention Act (性侵害犯罪防治法) and Article 12 of the Enforcement Rules for the act.
Should the council rule against involuntary treatment, the government would have to set free 68 sex offenders — 57 at the Pei Teh Hospital and 11 at the Tsaotun Pschyatric Center — Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Sandy Yeh (葉毓蘭) told a news conference in Taipei.
Sex offenders have a high recidivism rate and releasing them into society infringes on the public’s right to freedom from fear, she said.
Whatever the council’s decision, the Ministry of Health and Welfare is advised to devise policies in its management of sex offenders that would protect the rights of the public and crime victims, she said.
The ministry should consider using contact tracing technology that is being used during the COVID-19 pandemic in its management of convicts committed to its psychiatric facilities, she added.
KMT Legislator Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) said that Taiwan did not invent the involuntary treatment of sex offenders, adding that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the practice did not contravene the International Bill of Human Rights.
“The personal freedoms of convicted sex offenders should not be protected at the expense of the victims and the rights of the public,” she said.
“The public should not shoulder the costs [of criminal reform] just because the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Health and Welfare did not come up with a full package of supplementary measures for their policy,” she added.
KMT Legislator Lee De-wei (李德維) said: “Involuntary treatment is a deprivation of personal liberties, but the law also gives judges the discretion to moderate it within the confines of the law for the purpose of protecting human rights.”
Psychiatrist and sex offender assessment expert Yang Tsung-tsai (楊聰財) said the predisposition to sex offenses is a difficult mental disease to treat and the US policy is to permanently isolate sexually violent predators from society.
“Compulsive gropers and pedophiles have extremely high recidivism rates. Whatever the constitutional interpretation will be, the nation will have to reconsider the supplementary measures,” he said.
Measures being deliberated by officials include removing the maximum involuntary treatment of five years for the criminally insane, and mandating GPS ankle monitors and other surveillance devices for released sex offenders, he said.
Mothers Shield Alliance deputy secretary-general Shan Hsin-ai (單信愛) said she does not know if the government cares more about victims or perpetrators, and urged the nation to consider surveillance and the chemical castration of offenders.
If the council finds involuntary treatment unconstitutional, it should give public health authorities a grace period to reorganize medical resources, Ministry of Health and Welfare’s domestic abuse sexual offense prevention task force member Chang Shu-hui (張淑慧) said.
“It is crucial that the authorities, police, probation officers, therapists and family members are part of the offender’s reintegration into society,” she said.
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