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Identifying sexual and violent re-offenders


Current measures which fail to significantly predict whether sexual offenders will repeat their crime could be improved by taking into account psychological and lifestyle factors. These factors could also enhance risk assessment for violent offenders.

This is the conclusion of Leam Craig, of Forensic Psychology Practice Ltd and Anthony Beech and Kevin Browne of the Psychology Department at Birmingham University, who will present their research today, Monday 22 March 2004, at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Forensic Psychology Annual Conference at Leicester University

The Prison and Probation Services currently use a number of scales to assess the risk of convicted sexual and violent offenders. The level of risk identified from these scales is used to determine the appropriate level of supervision in the community.

The researchers looked at how accurate six of these risk scales were when it came to predicting reoffending among a group of sexual, violent and general offenders. These 153 offenders were followed-up in the community for an average of eight years and nine months.

They found 74 per cent of the violent offenders were reconvicted, with 28 per cent being reconvicted for violent offences. Around 18 per cent of the sex offender group was reconvicted for a sexual offence, compared to two per cent of the violent offender group.

Only the recently developed scale, the Risk Matrix 2000 Violence, predicted violent re-offending but none of the scales significantly predicted sexual re-offending.

However, combining the scales with factors associated with re-offending, such as history of foster care, history of substance abuse, history of employment problems/instability, and history of school maladjustment, improved the predictive accuracy for sexual re-offences.

Leam Craig said “It is likely that these additional risk factors reflect general psychological and lifestyle instability to offender groups, rather than being predictive of sexual deviance per se.”

The psychologists hope that this research will improve the assessment of risk of reconviction in sexual and violent offenders. This will aid those working with offenders in the community and help target resources and supervision to those at greatest risk of re-offending, in order to improve public protection.

Sharon Smart | alfa
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