Pedophiles will be offered to take libido-suppressing drugs under a pilot program announced by Britain's Home Secretary Wednesday.
Pedophiles will be able to volunteer for treatment with hormones or antidepressant drugs which control sex drive, said John Reid, the Cabinet minister in charge of law enforcement.
The treatment - dubbed "chemical castration" by the British media - would be combined with psychological assistance, Reid said, adding that it would not serve as a substitute for prison or punishment.
"This needs to happen in combination with psychological treatment, to help people understand their sexual thoughts, challenge deviant thought processes and reduce the risks and dangers driven by their sexual drives," Reid told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
"It is an eminently sensible thing. It works in areas like Scandinavia. It reduces re-offending. It is not, I repeat not, a substitute for punishment or prison."
In several European countries, drugs intended to control the sexual urges of sex offenders have been around for decades. Denmark, which until 1970 gave offenders a choice between surgical castration and prison, now offers a chemical procedure. Sweden also offers the treatment on a voluntary basis.
The British program included a host of new measures intended to control convicted pedophiles.
It allows parents to ask police whether or not those in contact with their children were convicted of sex crimes, and would test the feasibility of making lie detector tests compulsory for offenders.
The proposal is a watered-down version of the so-called "Sarah's Law", which would give the public access to details of sex offenders living in their communities. The British government has resisted the law over concerns that it could spark vigilante attacks.
"Sarah's Law" was named after a British schoolgirl murdered in 2000 by a pedophile. It is modeled on "Megan's Law," the U.S. legislation named for Megan Kanka, a New Jersey child murdered by a repeat sex offender.
The government said it would only make the information available to parents or guardians, something Reid said would meet the concerns of families while protecting the rights of sex offenders who had served their time. Police would have the right to withhold information if they determined that the offender was not a risk, although Reid said the process would be weighted toward disclosure.
The program would also require pedophiles to supply more information to police monitoring them after their release from prison, including their e-mail addresses and online identities. Pedophiles would have to notify police if they entered into a relationship with a single mother.
Also part of the program is a publicity campaign to raise awareness of child abuse and increased funding for the agency which monitors offenders.