Academic journal article British Journal of Community Justice

An Exploration of Third Party Disclosure and Outcomes in Registered Sex Offenders

Academic journal article British Journal of Community Justice

An Exploration of Third Party Disclosure and Outcomes in Registered Sex Offenders

Article excerpt

Introduction

Disclosure is considered to be an important and necessary resource for the effective risk management of sexual offenders. Disclosure, in this context, refers to 'the sharing of specific information about a MAPPA offender with a third party (not involved in MAPPA) for the purpose of protecting the public' (MAPPA Guidance, 2012). This should not be confused with information-sharing between agencies.

MAPPA refers to the multi-agency public protection arrangements which were introduced in England and Wales in 2001 under Sections 67 and 68 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act (2000) to facilitate the sharing of information among agencies to improve public protection. MAPPA is now covered by the Criminal Justice Act (2003, section 325-327). Police, probation and prison services form the Responsible Authority with a statutory duty to ensure that the risks posed by specified sexual and violent offenders are assessed and managed appropriately, and other agencies--such as health, youth justice and the local authority--have a 'duty to co-operate' (Criminal Justice Act, 2003, section 325(3)).

One of the categories of offenders falling within the remit of MAPPA is Registered Sex Offenders (RSOs). These are convicted sex offenders who are subject to notification requirements under the Sexual Offences Act, 2003. Under the terms of the Act, RSOs must notify police of their name, address, all foreign travel, bank and credit card details, as well as information about their passports and other identity documents. RSOs--as with other MAPPA offenders--can be managed at three levels. Level 1 refers to ordinary agency management where the risks posed by the offender can be managed by the agency responsible for the supervision or case management. This involves information sharing but does not require multi-agency meetings. Level 2 is for those offenders whose risk requires active multi-agency management and for whom risk management plans are agreed via a multi-agency meeting. Level 3 is reserved for cases which meet the level 2 criteria but where the management issues require senior representation from the agencies, and there may be a need to commit significant resources at short notice.

The most recent MAPPA guidance (Section 10.2, 2012) sets out principles underpinning the use of disclosure. Disclosure should be lawful, proportionate, accurate and necessary. Proportionate refers to a number of considerations within the guidance, including the potential risk to the offender as a result of disclosure and the consideration and recording of alternatives to disclosure; the provision of information regarding key triggers for offending behaviour or other advice regarding management, not necessarily an offence history; and procedures to support both victims and offenders in case there is a breakdown in the process. Finally, the guidance suggests that 'it is preferable that the offender knows that disclosure is taking place. On occasion, the offender may make the disclosure himself or herself in the presence of the police or the Offender Manager (probation officer), or may later confirm or verify the content of the disclosure' (p.56).

Although there have been process evaluations of the MAPPA process (for example, Wood and Kemshall, 2007), there are only two published research studies on the use of third party disclosure under MAPPA. Cann (2007) reported on a survey of the 43 police areas in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Only 29 of the 40 areas which responded had made disclosures in the preceding six months. The survey revealed that the primary reason for disclosure was child protection, usually precipitated by a change in an offender's personal relationships, housing or employment situation. Most commonly it was the details of the convicted offence which were disclosed. Both negative and positive consequences were highlighted: potential destabilisation of the offender versus enhanced public protection by limiting opportunities for offenders to access risky situations. …

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