DeSilva challenged on chemical castration’
Compulsory chemical castration is “the enemy of justice”, a Bermudian pastor who was sexually assaulted as a child said yesterday.
The Reverend John-Anthony Burchall said that a call by Zane DeSilva for the use of drugs to kill the sexual urge in paedophiles to be considered was motivated by a desire for retribution.
Mr Burchall told Mr DeSilva: “I entreat you to use your political power, and to let your atavistic desires for revenge die a natural death.”
The pastor wrote an op-ed piece for The Royal Gazette after Mr DeSilva, a former Progressive Labour Party minister, now a backbencher, said last week that he would “agree to anything” that might stop paedophiles from offending and that they are “incurable”.
Mr Burchall said in his article that he would support voluntary chemical castration — but that society should not give up on a cure for paedophilia.
Mr Burchall, now based at the Lyndale United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a specialist in mental health and suicide prevention, warned Mr DeSilva against a “kneejerk” reaction to child sex abuse.
Mr Burchall wrote: “We do not chop the hands off persons that steal, we do not rape rapists or kill killers or abuse abusers in my Bermuda.
“Castrating paedophiles chemically sends the message that not all the citizens of my country have human rights.”
Mr Burchall is a former reporter at The Royal Gazette and is now a certified group facilitator through Mental Health Minnesota specialising in recovery and wellness.
Mr Burchall said: “No one in Bermuda will challenge the reality that our children must be protected from predators ... that requires no thought.
“What requires thought and leadership is to make the decision to ensure, through separate means, that children are protected and supported for life and offenders are also supported and cared for in prison for life or during supervised release.”
In a later interview, Mr Burchall said: “When a politician reaches a place where they say there is no solution, it is incurable, it is at that point they must stop and think.
“It is such a devastating thing for offenders, some of them commit suicide.”
Mr DeSilva told The Royal Gazette last week that he and former One Bermuda Alliance MP Mark Pettingill visited the UK on a fact-finding mission two years ago where the idea of chemical castration was discussed.
He later said that details of how chemical castration in Bermuda might be used would have to be debated.
Mr DeSilva was speaking in the wake of the publication of a Joint Select Committee of the House of Assembly report which recommended a register of sex offenders.
Phillip Lee, British justice minister until he resigned in June, asked officials when he was in office to look at ways to increase the use of medical treatment to stop sexual urges because international evidence suggested it was the best way to stop reoffending.
A drug called leuprorelin, marketed as Prostap, designed to reduce testosterone levels to the level of prepubescent boys, has been used in a UK prison in Whatton, Nottinghamshire,
Drug treatment for sex offenders in the UK is voluntary, but can help offenders to get parole. But some countries, including Indonesia, South Korea and Poland, have compulsory chemical castration.
Sebastian Henagulph, a forensic psychiatrist for the Bermuda Hospitals Board and at Westgate prison, said chemical castration was appropriate in a small number of cases, but very expensive.
Dr Henagulph, who also holds clinics at the Mental Health Court, Prison Farm and Co-Ed Facility, added: “So-called chemical castration does have a place in treatment and management of sexual offenders.
“However it is only helpful in a minority of cases where there is a clearly identified risk factor driving the offending such as hypersexuality or sexual compulsion.”
He added: “The treatments need to be consented to as most are in tablet form and have potentially long-term health-harming side-effects.
“While there are long-acting injections available and even the option of permanent surgical castration, these are very expensive options and a motivated offender can get always get around these by simply obtaining testosterone tablets.”
Scars, a child abuse prevention charity, said there were 106 cases of child sex abuse cases in 2012, 126 in 2013 and 173 in 2014. But research at Harvard Medical School in the US has suggested that 88 per cent of child sexual abuse was never reported.
• UPDATE: this article has been amended to include the name of the church at which the Reverend John-Anthony Burchall pastors