FEWER than 30% of sex offenders in prison have been given specialised treatment or psychological care while behind bars.

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) confirmed that of 327 people in custody in relation to sex offending, just 90 have engaged with psychological services.

If that trend continued, it means 237 criminals – convicted of serious offences including rape or possession of child pornography – will return to the community without any significant treatment.

A number of the country's most high-profile sex offenders – including the notorious rapist Larry Murphy – have left prison in recent years without having had any psychological treatment.

Specialised treatment is only available in Arbour Hill Prison, which has bed capacity for just 148 prisoners, less than half of the sex offenders in the system.

The IPS refuted the notion that forcing offenders to take part in treatment programmes was of any benefit.

"Research indicates that there is no evidence to support the idea that mandatory attendance, or indeed attendance achieved under the threat of punishment, at rehabilitation programmes is of any value in reducing reoffending," it said.