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Could chemical castration cure Gordon Stuckless?

Gordon Stuckless arrives at court in Toronto on April 22 , 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young.

Crown prosecutors are expected to recommend a 10- to 12-year sentence for Gordon Stuckless, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to 100 charges related to the sexual abuse of 18 boys decades ago.

On the surface, that appears to be a very light sentence for a man who has admitted to destroying the lives of those 18 boys – including Martin Cruz, who killed himself in 1997 following Stuckless’s original sentence of two years less a day.

The instinctive reaction is that Stuckless should be considered a dangerous offender – which would allow the judge to levy an indefinite sentence – given the severity of his crimes. Or at least as a long-term offender, which can result in mandatory supervision of up to 10 years in the community after incarceration.

But prosecutors decided in December not to seek either designation because Stuckless has apparently abided by the law since his previous convictions in 1997 and is undergoing chemical castration.

Chemical castration is castration via drugs, intended to reduce libido, compulsive sexual fantasies, and capacity for sexual arousal. It involves using antiandrogen drugs like cyproterone acetate or the birth-control drug DMPA. The drugs are injected every three months, making it easier for the courts to ensure subjects are complying with the program.

Related stories:

Bail conditions change to allow Gordon Stuckless to appear in court unaccompanied

Stuckless victims tell of lifelong suffering due to sexual abuse

Gordon Stuckless doesn’t meet dangerous offender status: psychiatric assessment

Chemical castration has been used in the United States since 1966, but the DMPA drug used by the States has never been approved by the FDA for use as a treatment for sexual offenders. In California, the treatment is mandatory for offenders who have committed a second child molestation offence, but it is not mandatory in any other state.

In a number of European countries, chemical castration is used in exchange for shorter sentences in sex-related sentences. Since 2009, the treatment is mandatory for convicted child molesters in Poland.

However, there remain questions about the effectiveness of the process as well as the ethical concerns about the approach.

In India, maintaining injection schedules has proved untenable. And in Scandinavia, where reoffending rates have dropped from 40 per cent to five per cent through chemical castration, the fact that five per cent of offenders are still able commit a sex crime is raising alarm bells.

There are also psychologists who argue that sex crimes are less crimes of sexual gratification but crimes of power, where the offender gets satisfaction out of overpowering or humiliating his or her victims through sex.

So, will chemical castration work on an offender like Stuckless?

According to his defence lawyer, Ari Goldkind, Stuckless has been voluntarily getting the chemical treatment regularly since 1997 and he has not reoffended in that time. Under the current terms of his bail agreement, he is under house arrest and must be accompanied by his brother when he leaves the home.

If Stuckless is sentenced to 12 years, he could apply for full parole in four years. After his release there could be court-ordered conditions like parole or mandatory supervision, and he is currently 64 years old. So Stuckless could be considered unlikely to reoffend.

But given the severity and magnitude of his crimes, it’s unlikely his victims will be satisfied with chemical castration as an adequate punishment.