Sex Offender Public Disclosure - Learning from the UK pilots & international research

Lead Research Organisation: University of the West of England
Department Name: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences


Four one day Knowledge Exchange Events (KE Events) set within the different 'countries' of the UK, supported by four online discussions each led by a lead academic and including key policy leads and practitioners. Each event will be followed by a structured online discussion of between 4-6 weeks duration, to develop key themes, exchange best practice, and consolidate outcomes on emerging areas in public disclosure, which will be facilitated by one of the proposers, include presenters from the KE Events, and invited key policy makers and practitioners.
KE Event 1:Access, impact and value-added (Scotland; co-hosted with the Risk Management Authority & led by Kemshall, Murray (ipsos) & Chan (ipsos). To focus on the value-added to child protection and reasons for limited impact; strategies to maximise impact; development & future use of impact measures. To share learning and best practice on access, targeting and marketing strategies, with a focus on increasing take-up by marginal and excluded groups, and increasing the scheme's responsiveness to diverse populations. Online discussion 1:(led by Kemshall & Murray/Chan). This discussion will focus on both minority offending and victim groups, examining the unique issues, concerns and impacts that disclosure has upon these groups. KE Events 2: Localism, community and reintegration (Northern Ireland; co-hosted with PPANI & NOTA (NI), led by McCartan, Maruna (QUB) & McAlinden (QUB)). This event will take a dual stream approach with one addressing northern Ireland related issues (issues of localism, with particular reference to the 'troubles' in Northern Ireland and policing, offender management, community activism) and the other addressing the republic of Ireland (cross border issues, the development of public disclosure scheme, austerity and a focus on particular Irish issues (i.e., cultural attitudes to sexuality, sexual abuse).This event will examine the social mechanisms that either reintegrate or exclude sex offenders. Online discussion 2:(led by Kemshall, McCartan & Wilson (McMaster)) This discussion will focus on the realities of sex offender reintegration and management in the community, in the light of disclosure, austerity and changes to the CJS. Online discussion 3:(led by Dr Donald Findlater (Stop it Now)) This discussion will focus on the public's understanding of issues around sexual offending and whether existing professional educational techniques are working, or is a change in tactics needed. KE Events 3: Devolution, Context & Partnership Networks (Wales;co-hosted with WCCSJ & led by Hudson). This event would address the impact of devolution and its links to 'shared' Criminal justice services; cultural/social/economic differences in rural and urban contexts; existing local networks/partnerships and their role in shaping the design and delivery of public disclosure. This is event would therefore address the relationship between govermentality, austerity and the reality of offender management. Online discussion 4:(led by Kemshall, Lieb & Thomas (Leeds Met Uni))This discussion will focus on international aspects of sexual offending, including, what this means in terms of aetiology, offending, treatment, policy, practice and management. KE Events 4:Public perceptions, media framing, and risk policy formation (England;co-hosted with SWM Probation and lead by kemshall/lieb). To review the formulation of risk policies on sex offender regulation & management in the community. Comparison to the USA position and an overview of policy development around the public disclosure scheme in the UK provide important lessons for understanding and managing public expectations, media pressure, & political responses to risk anxieties; with a key theme being risk communication around sexual offending with the public, particularly in an age of austerity. The KE Event will also consider the use of evidence in future risk responses to sex offenders, & future likely directions for disclosure.

Planned Impact

The primary beneficiaries of this research are Home Office, Ministry of Justice, National Offender Management Service (NOMS), Prison Service and the Police, and the Irish equivalents. Secondary beneficiaries are other public sector and third sector organisations involved in the management of sex offenders (e.g. Child Protection Services, Circles of Support and Accountability) and in child protection (e. g. the major Children's Charities). Tertiary beneficiaries are the media and general public, through the provision of more evidenced information on sex offender regulation, disclosure systems, and improvements in policy responses and media coverage. Paralleling this are UK national policy makers involved in policy and legislative responses to sexual offending. A broader societal benefit is increased effectiveness and efficiency in sex offender regulation, increased public safety and child protection. Key economic benefits are expected in sex offender policy formation and implementation. In the 'age of austerity' and significant cuts for UK criminal justice agencies it is imperative that policies are underpinned by rigorous research, and effective policy learning and use of existing knowledge. The costs of the sex offender disclosure scheme are high (Kemshall et al 2010), and active learning from existing models, coupled with UK wide and transatlantic comparisons will assist appropriate resource modelling. Cost-benefit and evaluation processes are also embryonic, and cost comparisons across differing implementation models, plus reviews of existing and likely cost-benefit models will be critical in evaluating policy responses to sex offenders thus enabling cost-benefit modelling of differing responses (Kemshall et al 2010). Improving evidence based policy formation and a more economic and strategic approach to justice is a key Ministry of Justice aim (see: Transforming Justice, MoJ 2010). The social, individual and economic costs of child sexual abuse are high, with each individual offence estimated to cost £30,000 in terms of legal, health and social care responses. Additional benefits are increased knowledge, competence and capacity building in sex offender policy formation and implementation in an area that has been subject to both media distortion and political sensitivity. It is expected that future policy will have to balance political drivers with economic effectiveness more stringently. This proposal offers a mechanism to explore that balance in one of the most challenging criminal justice policy areas. Primary and secondary benefits will be access to cross UK and Ireland comparisons of implementation, resource and evaluation models. At an operational level this will include techniques to improve marketing and access strategies including access to marginalised groups; and increasing the disclosure's schemes responsiveness to diverse groups. The underpinning research and the KE Events will also identify significant barriers to implementation; with good practice examples of how these were overcome a key theme of KE Event 3. Increasing policy makers and professional practitioners' understandings of public perceptions of sex offenders is a critical theme (KE Event 4) with important comparisons across the UK pilots, broader research literature and learning from the USA. Knowledge impact is expected for both policy makers and practitioners on managing public expectations, media pressure, and political responses to risk anxieties. A broader benefit is improved policy and practitioner risk communication with the public about sex offender risks, for example by better use of local and national media, public consultations, use of public meetings. A key outcome is improvement in risk communication with the public about sex offender risks to enable a clearer policy distinction between policies of public reassurance (less economically viable in the current climate), and policies of effective sex offender risk management.


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Description The PI and collaborator have been invited to take part in local, regional discussions around the impact and use of the Child Sexual Abuser Disclosure scheme. The events that we ran, especially in Northern Ireland, lead to cross UK discussions about the scheme and the development of Northern Ireland's version; staff from PBNI and PSNI visiting Stop it Now Scotland to see how they operated their version of the scheme. The PI and one Co-PI (KEMSHALL) were invited to comment and engage on the development of the scheme in Northern Ireland by the Northern Ireland Executive. The Pi has been asked to advise the Australian national working group on sex offender management (2015) and the Latvian government and criminal justice organizations (2017) on issues relating to the sex offenders register, disclosure scheme, sex offender reintegration as well as community reintegration.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Policy & public services