Police are implementing a risk based approach to managing registered sex offenders. This means each offender will have a personalised risk management plan to reduce the risk they pose to the public.
National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Management of Sexual and Violent Offenders, Deputy Chief Constable Michelle Skeer said:
“The UK has some of the toughest powers in the world to manage registered sex offenders with low levels of reoffending.
“With the numbers of registered sex offenders rising year on year, these changes will enable us to more actively manage those offenders who pose the greatest risk to the public while providing a proportionate approach to those who are consistently assessed to be at low risk of reoffending.
“It is important to remember that people will be on the sex offenders register for a range of crimes – it could be from downloading indecent images to contact offending. There are also a wide range of factors that impact on the likelihood of an individual reoffending. This means we need to take a tailored approach rather than following a one-size-fits-all model.”
Following the introduction of an active risk management system and individual risk management plans, police are making three further changes:
- Officers will now determine the frequency of home visits as part of a holistic plan instead of all offenders receiving a set number of visits based on their risk category.
- Success will no longer be measured solely by the completion of home visits. Instead, supervisors will now assess performance by reviewing the quality of the risk management plan, progress in completing actions and re-evaluation of an individual’s risk.
- Those who have not reoffended and are consistently assessed as low risk for at least three years will be considered for reactive management where they do not receive home visits. They will continue to be monitored and will be subject to annual notification requirements at a local police station. Any intelligence or changes to their circumstances will trigger a review of the risk assessment with the potential for their level of risk to be increased or for home visits to be reintroduced.
Academic research is being commissioned to evaluate these changes and ensure they are working as intended. Chief constables are in the process of introducing the changes in their forces.
David Tucker, crime lead at the College of Policing, said:
“The College supports forces taking a risk based approach to target police resources to manage those registered sex offenders assessed as posing the greatest risk to the public.
“We will continue to support officers and staff to ensure they have the most up to date information to help them manage risk and keep the people safe.”
Latest statistics as of March 2016 show over 52,000 registered sex offenders in England and Wales.
The number of RSOs has risen steadily over the last ten years from 30,416 in 2006/07.
There has been a 7 per cent rise between 2014/15 and 2015/16.
In 2015/16, 2.9 per cent of registered sex offenders breached their notification requirements leading to caution or conviction. These are breaches of registration requirements, not new sexual offences.
In 2015/16, 0.13 per cent of registered sex offenders were charged with a serious further offence.
Latest available statistics show approximately 2 per cent of registered sex offenders assessed as very high risk, 18 per cent high risk, 30 per cent medium risk and 50 per cent low risk. Under the current system, very high risk offenders receive monthly visits, high risk receive three monthly visits, medium receive six monthly visits and low risk receive annual visits.
Around 16,000 registered sex offenders could potentially be eligible for reactive management. Police forces are moving numbers in the low hundreds on to reactive management.
In 2015/16, the courts imposed 3,873 Sexual Harm Prevention Orders.
Statistics from the latest Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements Annual Report 2015/16 – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/563117/MAPPA_Annual_Report_2015-16.pdf
Risk assessment and management
Over the last 20 years, police have used a risk assessment tool for registered sex offenders that categorised them based their offending history into very high, high, medium or low risk. Risk Matrix 2000 is a static risk assessment based on historical factors shown to be statistically predictive of future sexual offending.
The Active Risk Management System was introduced into policing in 2014. It enables police to look beyond historical factors to dynamic risk factors that are subject to change.
Police risk assessment now involves consideration of risk factors such as opportunity to offend, sexual interests, emotional instability, anti-social influences and negative attitudes towards others or towards rules. As well as protective factors that reduce the risk of offending such as employment, an intimate relationship, a feeling of citizenship, a positive social network and a commitment not to reoffend.
A risk management plan could include action to build in protective factors like helping people into work, developing positive community links or therapy to change behaviour and prevent reoffending. It could also include action to reduce risk factors such as use of orders which might ban unsupervised access to children, place restrictions on internet use or visiting certain places or people.
Sexual Harm Prevention Orders account for the majority of restrictive orders and are intended to protect the public from offenders convicted of a sexual or violent offence who pose a risk of sexual harm to the public by placing restrictions on their behaviour. For example, a SHPO could be used to prohibit an offender from being alone with children under 16. The offender is automatically made subject to sexual offender registration and, if the order is breached, may be liable to a maximum of 5 years imprisonment. The SHPO is specific to the offender and is tailored to manage specific risks.