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Identification of Individuals who Pose a Risk to Children

The terms Schedule One and Schedule One Offender are confusing and should not be used in everyday practice.

The Home Office have produced interim guidance on which offences would identify an offender who poses a potential risk of harm to children. These offences can be found in Home Office Circular 16/2005. Any individual who commits any of these offences, or any offence where a child was involved, should be regarded as posing a potential risk to harm.

A worker in direct contact with such an individual, or a child where such an individual has a significant level of contact, needs to gain an understanding of how much risk, if any, they pose. Specialist agencies such as the Probation and Prison Service will assess this risk using their assessment tools, e.g. Offender Assessment System (OASys) – a shared Prison Service and Probation Service computer based assessment and planning tool designed for use with all offenders, Risk Matrix 2000 – a shared Police, Probation and Prison Service risk assessment tool for offenders who commit sexual and violent offences) or Spousal Assault Risk Assessment (SARA) – risk assessment tool used on domestic violence perpetrators by the Probation Service and other agencies. All these tools use a range of static criteria (e.g. age at first offence) and dynamic ones (e.g. level of substance misuse) to reach a judgement on risk. The planning process then looks to manage risk where appropriate and identify which are the key dynamic criteria that can be changed in a positive direction and reduce risk levels.

A worker from another agency should contact the Probation Service to see if a relevant risk assessment has been undertaken. If not, they will need to form a judgement as to the risk posed on the basis of all information that can be reasonably obtained. This judgement will include evidence of a pattern of behaviour, similarity between the current context and the context of the offence/s, and the presence of any contextual factor such as isolation, stress, or substance misuse. Any evidence of grooming behaviour would immediately increase the assessed level of risk.

In some circumstances, an individual might reasonably be regarded as posing a risk to children without a conviction. Where there have been a number of allegations from unconnected victims, or repeated acquittals, particularly for reasons of legal procedure or where the vulnerability of the victim might reduce their credibility as a witness would be examples. In these circumstances considerable care needs to be exercised but reasonable actions can be taken to protect children. Clear guidance is not possible given the complexity of this area. Workers should consult their line manager and record the assessment made the evidence on which it is based and any actions agreed.

Management of Individuals who Pose a Risk of Harm to Children

Effective arrangement of risk has to be based in inter agency working. A number of agencies have responsibility for the supervision of such individuals. These include the Probation Service, Prison Service, Youth Offending Teams and the Police. Staff in these agencies should ensure that they communicate all relevant information about the risk they pose, where they live and the children with whom they have contact to the relevant social care agency.

The social care agencies are responsible for assessing the information available to them and responding to protect children as required in line with these procedures.

All agencies have a responsibility to work together in this situation as in any other covered by the current legislation, Working Together to Safeguard Children and these procedures.

Other Multi-Agency Arrangements

There are a number of other arrangements that exist alongside the Child Protection process. Further details are available in Chapter 12 of Working Together to Safeguard Children, 2010 (now archived).

MAPPA (Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements)

Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements:

  • Individuals need to have committed an offence covered by the statutory criteria to be subject to MAPPA
  • Most individuals who have committed such an offence will not be assessed as posing sufficient risk, the nature of which requires either MAPPA Level 2 arrangements (management through the formal co-operation of two agencies) or MAPPA Level 3 arrangements (where they are identified as being currently one of the critical few who pose an immediate risk of serious harm).
  • Only a small minority of people who pose a risk of harm to children will be covered by MAPPA. Not all MAPPA offenders pose any risk of harm to children.
  • MAPPA will be involved with an individual who presents a risk for as long as it is assessed as being necessary. This may over time involve a number of potential or real victims.
  • MAPPA will not protect an identified victim or potential victim if the risk is posed by anyone other than the person registered under MAPPA.

MARAC (Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference)

Where MARAC is in place, it will respond to situations where there is a high risk of harm from domestic violence. It will co-ordinate services from a range of agencies as required by the situation. Child protection will frequently feature as a major element in the risk assessment of any given situation. It therefore provides a good forum to engage a wide range of agencies in protecting children as well as the other victims from domestic violence.

However, MARACs are designed to produce a speedy co-ordination of services to protect victims by maximising their impact. A situation will be assessed and a plan agreed. Implementation of the plan is monitored at the next meeting. The case then leaves the MARAC arena. It is an effective “quick hit” but does not provide a service that continues until the safety of the child is ensured.

Legal and other Mechanisms for Managing Risk

Where an offender is subject to a community sentence or post release licence, the Probation Service has a series of powers and responsibilities in managing an individual’s risk.

These may need to be enhanced. Frequently, there is no such statutory supervision. In these situations, a number of legal mechanisms are available.

The key resources include:

  • Sex Offender Register and Notification Orders
  • Sexual Offences Prevention Orders
  • Risk of Sexual Harm Orders
  • Disqualification Orders (disqualified from working with children)
  • Disclosure and Barring Service Disclosures.
  • The Disclosure and Barring Service’s Barred List

In addition VISOR, a national database of individuals who pose a risk of serious sexual or physical harm to children or others, is under development and will increasingly make relevant information available through the Police Force.

Civil Orders for the Management of Offenders who Pose a Risk to Children

(The following is adapted from Home Office Guidance on the Criminal Justice System Sexual Offences Act 2004 which can be accessed at: Home Office website)

Sex Offender Registration, Sex Offender Restraining Orders and Sex Offender Orders

The notification requirements on sex offenders (or “sex offender registration” as the requirements are sometimes known) were introduced in Part 1of the Sex Offenders Act 1997.The 1997 Act established that offenders convicted of certain sexual offences (listed in Schedule 1 to that Act) would have to notify certain personal details to the police and any subsequent changes to these details. The Sex Offenders Act was implemented on 1 September 1997.The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 introduced sex offender orders (SOOs).These were civil preventative orders imposed by the courts on convicted sex offenders on application from a chief officer of police. SOOs prohibit an offender from doing anything specified in the order, so long as it is necessary to protect the public from serious harm from the defendant. An offender made subject to an order is also subject to the notification requirements of the 1997 Act for the duration of the order (a minimum of 5 years).The Police Reform Act 2002 made amendments to the SOO, including introducing interim SOOs. Interim orders can impose suitable prohibitions on an offender whilst the main application is waiting to be determined.

In 2000 several changes were made to the Sex Offenders Act 1997 through the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 (CJCSA) to strengthen the requirements on convicted sex offenders. The maximum penalty for a breach of the notification requirements was increased to 5 years imprisonment and sex offenders had to make their initial notification within 3 days (rather than 14 days) of their conviction, caution, finding etc. for a relevant sexual offence. The CJCSA 2000 introduced a requirement for registered sex offenders to notify the police if they intended to travel overseas for 8 days or more. In addition, the CJCSA 2000 introduced Sex Offender Restraining Orders. These orders are very similar to SOOs but can be imposed by a court at conviction for a relevant sexual offence, rather than through application by a chief officer of police.

Key changes introduced through the Sexual Offences Act 2003

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 repealed all of the above legislation and re-introduced most of the provisions with some improvements. Listed below are the key changes that have been made to the notification requirements:

  • A conditional discharge is considered a conviction for the purposes of the notification requirements
  • The notification period for a caution is reduced from 5 years to 2 years
  • Offenders have to notify a change to their notified details (such as name or address) within 3 days of the change taking place (the previous period was 14 days)
  • Offenders have to notify any address in the UK at which they reside for 7 days or more, whether that is 7 days consecutive or 7 days within any 12 month period (the previous period was 14 days)
  • All offenders have to re-confirm their notified details annually (“periodic notification”)
  • All notifications have to be made in person and the police may take fingerprints and photographs at initial notification, whenever an offender notifies any changes to his details and at periodic notification
  • Offenders have to notify their National Insurance numbers at initial notification.
  • Those currently subject to the notification requirements have to provide such information when they first notify a change to their details after commencement of the 2003 Act or at their first periodic notification
  • It is now possible to notify a change of details in advance of the change taking place
  • Schedule 3, which lists the offences which trigger the notification requirements of Part 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, includes most of the new sexual offences contained in Part 1 of the 2003 Act (some have disposal or other thresholds that must be met before notification is triggered).
  • Where a disposal threshold has to be met before the notification requirements, the notification requirements do not apply unless s/he receives a sentence which meets that threshold
  • The Secretary of State will have a power to amend the thresholds and offences in Schedule 3

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 is also introducing new civil preventative orders:

Notification orders:

  • This order can be made, on application by a chief officer of police, in respect of individuals who have been convicted, cautioned etc. abroad for sexual offences equivalent to the sexual offences listed in Schedule 3 of the 2003 Act
  • The effect of the order is to make such offenders subject to the notification requirements of Part 2 of the 2003 Act as if they had been convicted, cautioned etc. in the UK of a relevant offence

Sexual offences prevention orders (SOPO):

  • This order replaces both the sex offender order and the restraining order. Therefore, a SOPO can be made on application by a chief officer of police in respect of a convicted sex offender or by a court at conviction
  • The SOPO is also an improvement on the sex offender order and the restraining order. A conditional discharge cannot be received as punishment for breach of a SOPO
  • A SOPO may be made in respect of an offender convicted, cautioned etc. of certain violent offences listed in Schedule 5 where such an order is necessary to protect the public from serious sexual harm

Foreign travel orders:

  • This order will enable the courts, in certain circumstances and on application by a chief officer of police, to prohibit those convicted of sexual offences against children aged under 16 from travelling overseas where there is evidence that they intend to cause serious sexual harm to children in a foreign country.

Risk of sexual harm orders (RSHOs):

  • This order is similar to the SOPO and aims to restrict the activities of those involved in grooming children for sexual activity. A previous conviction, caution etc. for a sexual offence is not a prerequisite in applying for a RSHO.

(The following is adapted from Probation Service Circular 17/2005)

Disqualification Orders

Under Part 2 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 individuals convicted of one of a list of specified sexual and violent offences against a child or supplying Class A drugs to a child are liable to disqualification from working with children. The relevant offences are set out at Schedule 4 to the CJCSA 2000.

The only courts able to impose disqualification orders are the “Senior Courts” i.e. the Crown Court, Court of Appeal, a court martial or the Courts Martial Appeals Court.

The court is obliged to consider making an order if the sentence reaches a qualifying threshold as follows:

  • 12 months or more imprisonment or detention;
  • 12 months or more detention and training order;
  • A hospital or guardianship order made within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983.

The court must make a disqualification order in all relevant cases unless it considers that further offences against children are unlikely. If the court decides not to make an order it must record the reasons for that decision.

In addition to the above, Schedule 30 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 has introduced a discretion for the court to make a disqualification order regardless of the sentence if it is believes that the offender is likely to commit a further offence against a child.

MISSED CASES

Since the requirement to consider disqualification orders came into force on 11 January 2001, there have been a number of cases in which orders should have been considered but were overlooked. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 has introduced a discretionary power for the CPS to make retrospective application to the court for an order in those cases.

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