Sex Offenders: Punish, Help, Change or Control? Theory, Policy and Practice Explored

Sex Offenders: Punish, Help, Change or Control? Theory, Policy and Practice Explored

Sex Offenders: Punish, Help, Change or Control? Theory, Policy and Practice Explored

Sex Offenders: Punish, Help, Change or Control? Theory, Policy and Practice Explored


Sex offending, and in particular child sex offending, is a complex area for policy makers, theorists and practitioners. A focus on punishment has reinforced sex offending as a problem that is essentially 'other' to society and discourages engagement with the real scale and scope of sexual offending in the UK. This book looks at the growth of work with sex offenders, questioning assumptions about the range and types of such offenders and what effective responses to these might be.

Divided into four sections, this book sets out the growth of a broad legislative context and the emergence of child sexual offenders in criminal justice policy and practice. It goes on to consider a range of offences and victim typologies arguing that work with offenders and victims is complex and can provide a rich source of theoretical and practical knowledge that should be utilised more fully by both policy makers and practitioners. It includes work on female sex offenders, electronic monitoring and animal abuse as well as exploring interventions with sex offenders in three different contexts; prisons, communities and hostels.

Bringing together academic, practice and policy experts, the book argues that a clear but complex theoretical and policy approach is required if the risk of re- offending and further victimisation is to be reduced. Ultimately, this book questions whether it makes sense to locate responsibility for responding to sexual offending solely within the criminal justice domain.


That the editors of a book on the subject of sex offending should have invited a foreword by a manager of volunteer-based community service may be of some significance in itself. Besides the request being a great honour, it also acknowledges the recent shifts in thinking in this field that render a brief introductory contribution from the community perspective timely and appropriate.

One key theme in this wide-ranging book is that a bridge is increasingly necessary between what can be done by dedicated criminal justice interventions and what might be available through greater community support and engagement subsequently. Theoretical and principled efforts, it is proposed, must be made to link what hitherto have all too often been disconnected worlds. It is a theme warmly welcomed by this particular manager. The four options of the book’s title, ‘punish, help, change or control’, perhaps together have become blurred and coalesced as the headlights that have often blinded society in its ability to get beyond the very real horror and repugnance of the abuses inflicted to a more measured, socially just and effective response to the perpetrators and, importantly, find an approach that critically is not just the responsibility of treatment practitioners.

Fortuitously in recent years, paralleling the shifts in thinking represented in the ‘good lives’ model (Ward and Stewart 2003), there has been an encouraging appreciation that communities can indeed be positively engaged in the reintegration of those who present a known risk of sexual re-offending. It is possible to see an alternative form of community ‘protection’ taking shape in which a growing body of local people are now choosing to engage, in marked contrast to the vigilantism enflamed by some sections of the media, with all its counter-productive heat. While one swallow does not make a summer, the closing down in 2011 of the News of the World newspaper, which perhaps plumbed new depths for itself and certain tabloid colleagues in its ‘naming and shaming’ campaign in 2000 of those with convictions for sex offences, can be viewed at least as some nemesis for the more extreme forms of ‘redtop’ journalism. The demise of this newspaper was not, of course, directly related to its coverage of sex offenders returning to the community, and may hardly represent the dawn of a lasting public disapproval at the perceived moral bankruptcy in some of the journalistic techniques brought to light. It may not . . .

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