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Suppressing human rights? A rights-based approach to the use of pharmacotherapy with sex offenders

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The use of pharmacotherapy (more emotively known as chemical castration) is the use of drugs to treat and help manage the risk that sex offenders, and in particular paedophiles, pose to society. Due to the increased climate of public fear of this risk, the government recently published a Review of the Protection of Children from Sex Offenders (the Review). This Review, published in June 2007, sought to explore how the protection of children could be improved and how greater reassurance to the public on the management of sex offenders could be provided. The Review makes several proposals with regard to managing high-risk sex offenders. Amongst the list of 20 actions, the trialling of polygraph tests, satellite tracking technology and the use of anti-libidinal suppressants is included. This paper examines the latter, pharmacotherapy, and assesses how concepts such as dignity and consent underpin the human rights' implications of its use. The paper will also assess the recent changes to mental health legislation and evaluate whether such treatment for incompetent or competent offenders is a viable option given the UK's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Senior Lecturer, Bristol Law School, University of the West of England and Lecturer, Cardiff Law School

Publication date: 2009-03-01

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