PARIS - A French prison doctor yesterday admitted that he had prescribed the sexual performance drug Viagra to a convicted paedophile who went on to abduct and sexually assault a five year old boy.
The extraordinary and disturbing case of Francis Evrard, 61, provoked an emergency meeting of the French government which promised a full investigation and draconian new penalties against paedophiles.
President Nicolas Sarkozy said that he would like to see voluntary "chemical castration" of paedophiles.
Child sex offenders would serve their full terms, with no remission in future, he said.
Those judged dangerous by a panel of doctors would be sent to a new, secure hospital in Lyons.
"Those who refuse to be treated would remain there as long as they are considered dangerous," the President said.
This implied that offenders who refused chemical castration would stay in the hospital for life.
The prison doctor in Caen in Normandy said that he had no knowledge of the prisoner's previous record when he prescribed the drug in June - even though Evrard was drawing close to the end of 18 years in jail for raping a child.
Last week, 45 days after he left jail, Evrard abducted a five years old boy in Roubaix in northern France.
He was arrested within hours, thanks to a new public alert system, but had already sexually assaulted the child.
Evrard had the Viagra drugs in his pocket and had taken one before the attack.
He told police that he had been prescribed the drug by his prison doctor but investigators refused to believe him.
His account was confirmed by the public prosecutor's office in Lille yesterday after the doctor spoke to police on Sunday.
The case has provoked consternation in France and considerable embarrassment for President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has promised to be tough on crime and especially on repeat offenders.
"It is like giving a bomb to a terrorist as he comes out of prison," said Emmanuel Riglaire, lawyer for the victim's family.
The President had a 30 minute meeting at the Elysee Palace on Monday with the father and grandfather of the child.
Mustafa Kocacurt, the boy's father, said Mr Sarkozy had promised him tougher new laws against paedophiles.
"I came here today to ask for a change in the law for monsters like this person," he said.
"I don't think it's normal that he should be outside jail."
Later President Sarkozy convened an emergency meeting of members of the government, including the prime minister, Francois Fillon, to discuss the Evrard case.
The doctor at the Caen prison, who has not been named, said that Evrard had told him that he wanted to "meet women" as part of his rehabilitation when he left jail.
He was not aware that his patient was a paedophile.
The prison officers' union in Caen dismissed this claim as "unacceptable".
A union leader said that three quarters of the prisoners in the Caen unit were child sex offenders.
It was absurd for a prison doctor to prescribe such a drug without checking.
"We warned the prison authorities that Evrard was saying dangerous things," the union leader said.
"He said, for instance, that he wanted to go to countries where it would be easy to obtain children." Several weeks before his release, Evrard was punished for having a picture of a naked child in his cell.
Prison officers and magistrates' representatives at national level said the case showed that the real problem was not the toughness of sentences but the lack of coordination and resources in the French judicial and prison system.
Evrard had been convicted of indecent assaults and rapes of children in 1975, 1985 and 1989.
He was sentenced to 27 years in prison for the last offence but served 18 years - the normal one-third remission allowed under French law.