‘Tangible progress made by agencies in improving the management of risk posed by sex offenders’ - In

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland has published its follow-up assessment of work undertaken by the criminal justice agencies in Northern Ireland to improve arrangements for the management of risk posed by sex offenders.

This report concludes the work undertaken last autumn by the independent Inspectorate in the wake of the murder of Strabane pensioner Attracta Harron.
“I can report that since Criminal Justice Inspection (CJI) looked at the multi-agency arrangements in place for sex offender management in 2005, and reviewed the arrangements following Mrs Harron’s murder, tangible progress has been made,” said Kit Chivers, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
“The PSNI has improved its sex offender risk management. Specific targets relating to the police investigation of sexual offences and their contribution to the process of managing sex offenders by regularly reviewing high risk cases are included in the 2007-10 Northern Ireland Policing Plan.
“Significant resources are being dedicated towards managing the risk posed by sex offenders and CJI suggests the police should reflect this further by setting targets in local DCU Policing Plans for their work in managing sex offenders,” said Mr Chivers.
He added that Inspectors had found some police officers would benefit from additional training in how to undertake visits to offenders in the community, and that obtaining access to ViSOR – the PSNI’s Violent and Sexual Offender Register – was sometimes still an issue.
“I understand that since CJI’s inspection concluded, steps have been taken to address these matters,” he said.
The Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice also recognised the value of including ‘potentially dangerous persons’ (PDPs) within the MASRAM arrangements.
“This is a development which will strengthen public confidence, though further work must be done within the Police Service to increase awareness of the process,” he stated, adding that responsibility for managing the risk posed by sex offenders required a multi-agency approach and did not rest with the PSNI alone.
CJI found that since October 2006, the Assistant Chief Constable for Criminal Justice has introduced a process of randomly checking high risk sex offender case files to ensure all police officers involved in managing the risk posed by sex offenders are meeting the requirements set by the Service.
“Random checking of case files represents good practice in case management where detailed written files are kept to show exactly how an offender is being managed. Case management is already central to the work of probation officers, and Inspectors recommend it should also be routinely applied by the Prison Service and the police in their management of sex offenders,” said Mr Chivers.
In a bid to further strengthen current arrangements, CJI has called for the Prison Service to enhance their contribution to the management of sex offender risk.
“While CJI recognises that progress has been made, the Prison Service needs to further resource its MASRAM work and ensure staff are properly trained to undertake the various roles they are required to fulfill,” stated Mr Chivers.
In conclusion the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice said: “CJI recognises the steady progress that has been made by the agencies involved in this work and expects these developments to be strengthened when the new legislation promised by Government, which will bring about an end to automatic 50% remission for dangerous offenders, is implemented.
“However, Northern Ireland needs to plan carefully to deliver extended and indeterminate public protection sentences, learning whatever lessons we can from the experience of introducing such sentences in England and Wales,” he concluded.