Can Sexual Offenders Be Subjected to Chemical Castration in New South Wales?

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Man taking medication

It has been reported that a South Australian man convicted of sexual assault has been released from prison ro home detention after agreeing to take “libido suppressing drugs”.

Troy James Power, 45, was convicted of the offence in 2008 and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.

He will now be released to serve the remainder of his sentence by way of home detention after putting forward the proposal to undertake a libido suppressing medical treatment.

This article outlines the process sometimes referred to as “chemical castration”, discusses whether the treatment is effective and explains the circumstances in which it can be ordered by a court in New South Wales.

What is chemical castration?

Chemical castration is a medical treatment that involves the administration of drugs, typically hormones, to reduce or eliminate the production of  testosterone in males.

The most common drug used is a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone called medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA). When used, individuals on chemical castration treatment have a greatly diminished sex drive, which is believed to reduce the likelihood of re-offending.

Side effects of treatment include the loss of muscle mass, decreased bone density and changes in mood including depression.  Individuals who undergo chemical castration are also at an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Does it work?

The evidence for chemical castration therapy for sex offenders is limited.

There is evidence that offenders who undertake chemical castration treatment have a lower libido and less intense sexual fantasies and that this tends to improved engagement in psychological interventions designed to change behaviour.

However, the evidence for reduced re-offending amongst sex offenders released in the community who undertake chemical castration is not strong. Douglas et al (2013) found in their review of the research that, whilst some small-scale studies have indicated reduced recidivism amongst sex offenders on treatment, this was not replicated by larger studies. They conclude:

[F]or both traditional agents and GnRH agonists, evidence for effectiveness is not robust. Moreover, chemical castration appears to be ineffective in antisocial or psychopathic sex offenders who do not suffer from paraphilia (Berlin 2009), and certain comorbidities may preclude effective intervention in individuals with paraphilia (Saleh and Guidry 2003).

Can NSW sex offenders be forced to undertake chemical castration?

Chemical castration is a treatment option for sex offenders in New South Wales.

However, it is normally only administered on a voluntary basis.

An exception to this general rule is in relation to the management of ‘high risk offenders’, who may be subject to extended supervision orders.

Section 6 of the The Crimes (Serious Sex Offenders) Act 2006  empowers the State to apply to the Supreme Court for an extended supervision order against a sex offender who, when the application is made, is in custody or under supervision:

1. while serving a sentence of imprisonment:

(i)  for a serious sex offence, or

(ii)  for an offence of a sexual nature, or

(iii)  for another offence which is being served concurrently or consecutively, or partly concurrently and partly consecutively, with one or more sentences of imprisonment referred to above whether the sentence is being served by way of full-time detention, intensive correction in the community or home detention and whether the offender is in custody or on release on parole, or

2. pursuant to an existing extended supervision order or continuing detention order.

An application cannot be made earlier than six months before the expiry of an offender’s sentence.

Section 5 of the Act defines ‘serious sex offence’ to cover a broad range of offences of a sexual nature, including those carrying a maximum penalty of at least 7 year in prison, such as:

  • sexual act with a child under 10,
  • aggravated sexual touching,
  • all sexual assaults,
  • persistent sexual abuse of a child,
  • procuring or grooming a child under 16,
    sexual servitude, and
  • producing, disseminating or possessing child abuse material.

Section 9 of the Act stipulates that:

[A]n extended supervision order may be made if and only if the Supreme Court is satisfied to a high degree of probability that the offender poses an unacceptable risk of committing a serious sex offence if he or she is not kept under supervision.

The Court can order a number of conditions on a supervision order, including that an offender “participate in treatment and rehabilitation programs” including chemical castration programs.

Chemical castration as a condition of a sentence

Home detention is no longer a standalone penalty in New South Wales.

However, home detention can form part of what is known as an intensive correction order.

An intensive correction order, or ICO, is a type of supervised good behaviour bond which comes with standard conditions that:

  • the defendant must not commit any further offences, and
  • the defendant must submit to supervision by a community correction officer.

An ICO must also impose at least one of the following conditions:

  • Home detention,
  • Electronic monitoring,
  • Curfew,
  • Community service work (up to 750 hours),
  • Participation in a rehabilitation program or acceptance of treatment,
  • Abstention from alcohol or drugs, or both,
  • Non-association with particular persons,
  • Prohibition from frequenting or visiting a place or area.

A court may impose any reasonable additional conditions, including a conditions that a person undergo a medical procedure.

An ICO can last for up to two year and the Parole Authority has the power to impose, vary or revoke conditions after the court sentencing date.

However, the Authority cannot add a home detention or community service condition unless it obtains an assessment report which states that such a condition is appropriate.

A person who breaches an ICO can be brought back before a court and resentenced for the offence for which it was imposed.

Going to court?

If you are going to court for a sexual offence, call us anytime on 9261 8881 to arrange a free first conference during which one of our experienced criminal defence lawyers will advise you of your options and the best way forward, and fight for the optimal outcome.

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Jarryd Bartle

Jarryd Bartle is an Associate Lecturer in Criminology and Justice Studies at RMIT University and a consultant for the Bridge of Hope Innocence Initiative, which investigates claims of wrongful conviction and advocates for systemic reform to protect against miscarriages of justice.

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