The release of dangerous sex offenders into society causes considerable alarm among the general public. No one wants a violent rapist living in their area, particularly considering that the recidivism rate of sex offenders is considerably higher than many other criminal offenders. The release of rapist Larry Murphy last month caused an unprecedented furore. He was jailed for the violent rape and attempted murder of a Carlow woman in 2000 and is a suspect in the disappearance and presumed murder of three other women.
The former carpenter refused to undergo any rehabilitative therapy during his incarceration. Because he was sentenced before the Sex Offenders Act was passed in 2001, he is not subject to a post-release supervision order. But Murphy is listed on the Sex Offenders Register, as the register applies to all offenders who were in the criminal justice system when the legislation was enacted. Until he left Ireland in recent days, Murphy had been living under self-imposed house arrest because of unprecedented media interest in him. Senior gardaí say his decision to leave Ireland was inevitable. He will be subject to police monitoring in his new home in mainland Europe. But by leaving home, Murphy has escaped his far more relentless pursuers – the Irish media.
MONITORING OF MURPHY IN IRELAND
Upon his release, Larry Murphy became one of approximately 1,100 sex offenders being monitored by gardaí. Within a couple of days of getting out of jail, he had to seek help from a prison chaplain and gardaí because his every move was being tracked by the media. The chaplain recommended he place himself in the care of the probation service, who found a place for Murphy to live and arranged for his meals to be brought to him. They offered him rehabilitative therapy for sex offenders but again he refused. He sought help from the probation service because he was unable to independently secure somewhere to live, such was his notoriety.
In Ireland, gardaí do not have the resources to monitor on a 24-hour basis the 1,100-plus sex offenders on the register. Detectives register sightings of the offender and intelligence gathered on him on the Garda's Pulse computer database. This helps them build up a profile of an offender's habits, the places the person tends to frequent and who he is in contact with. If a registered sex offender begins to change his routine, monitoring by detectives can increase and can lead to 24-hour surveillance. Nationally, the monitoring of sex offenders is handled by the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit. There is no electronic tagging of sex offenders in Ireland. It has been mooted for future use if imposed by a judge. Murphy was imprisoned at Arbour Hill, which offers various treatment programmes for sex offenders. Unlike some other jurisdictions, the therapy programmes are voluntary as it is felt that only inmates who genuinely want to address why they committed their crimes will fully engage with treatment. A source said Murphy is officially ranked as a "high-risk" sex offender. As a European citizen, he is entitled to travel within Europe but would not be granted entry to a country where a visa is required because of his criminal record, such as the US or Australia.
"This fact that he is high risk is emphasised to the police force wherever he goes. He has to comply with our legislation by providing us with an exact address of where he intends to move to. He also has to comply with the legislation in the country he moves to, such as registering with them. If he doesn't do that, he's in trouble and subject to arrest."
It is unlikely Larry Murphy will opt to live in Britain, at least not in the immediate future. This is mainly because media pursuit of him in Britain would be almost equal to the interest shown in his movements by the Irish press. The monitoring of registered sex offenders in the UK is slightly more stringent than in Ireland although electronic tagging is not used. Under the Sex Offenders Act 1997, as amended by the Sexual Offences Act 2003, all convicted sex offenders must register with the police within three days of their conviction or release from prison. In Ireland, registered sex offenders have seven days to provide an address.
In the cases of some high-risk sex offenders, police have the discretion to inform some community leaders when a registered offender moves to the area. Head teachers, doctors, youth leaders and sports club managers can be notified of the existence of a local sex offender on a confidential basis. But a system of general disclosure is unlikely to happen in Britain. In the US, parents have access to pictures and details of all registered paedophiles. This right is known as Megan's law, named after seven-year-old Megan Kanka, who was found strangled near her New Jersey home.
Spain, like all countries in Europe, has a register of sex offenders who are monitored. But this summer, Spanish police admitted they did not have the resources to monitor all of the sex offenders from the UK arriving in their droves to coastal areas of Spain. Spain is also a popular destination for Irish sex offenders who wish to leave the country. "There have been many Irish sex offenders who have moved to Spain. This is because there are so many parts of the country, especially along the coast, where English is widely spoken," said a garda source. "It's popular not just with Irish sex offenders. Spain is popular with Irish criminals too. The Spanish police are informed by us when an Irish sex offender moves there. It is then up to them to monitor that person." A spokesman for the Independent Association of the Guardia Civil (IGC) told the UK's Daily Telegraph in August that reinforcements are needed at coastal resorts during the summer to help deal with the number of sex abusers it is felt are at high risk of reoffending. Spanish authorities said that sometimes the offenders change their names and remain in areas heavily populated with tourists and expats.
The Netherlands is also a popular destination for sex offenders from Ireland and Britain. Gardaí inform the Dutch police when an Irish sex offender moves to the Netherlands, and provide photos and information about the risk factors in each individual case. Similar to the situation in Spain, sex offenders are not electronically tagged. Holland is also a popular destination for English-speaking sex offenders. Its cities are also considered an ideal place for people who want to integrate back into society under the radar.
THE STATE OF VERMONT, USA
Murphy would not be permitted entry to the US or Canada because of his criminal record. But Vermont is considered the world leader in the management and treatment of sex offenders. The level of treatment an offender receives depends on the sexual crime committed. When a person is found guilty, a sentence management plan is formulated in conjunction with the offender. Great emphasis is placed on therapy for sex offenders upon their release into the community. Low risk offenders are released after serving their minimum sentence and they then receive sex offender treatments in the community. On parole, high risk offenders are required to engage in community sex offender programmes and are strictly monitored. They are returned to prison for breaches of parole. Upon their release, some high-risk sex offenders are subject to polygraph tests, restrictions on their movements, regular drug and alcohol testing and visits to their job and home as well as intensive surveillance.