Monitoring Dangerous Offenders In England and Wales.
It was clear at the start of the seminar that probation and police agencies were seeking ways to improve their working relationships so they could provide a more effective strategy for public protection. The seminar focused on reviewing the new requirements for police and probation agencies to set up specific mechanisms to monitor a variety of dangerous offenders. The overall vision of the seminar was public protection through partnerships. Doyle led off the discussion by providing participants with an extensive background of the current situation.
As early as 1997, the British government included in its Sex Offenders Act (SOA) the requirement that certain sex offenders register their names and addresses with the police agency in the local municipality in which they reside. The legislation's intention was not to provide a passive instrument, but to act as the basis for a risk assessment and management process for more efficient monitoring of these offenders.
Key to this arrangement were the interagency agreements that developed, especially between the police and probation agencies. Over time, the majority of these arrangements expanded to incorporate violent or otherwise potentially dangerous offenders within the scope of what became risk management panels chaired by ranking police officers. Continuing its efforts to provide public protection, the government proceeded to pass legislation, including the Crime Sentences Act of 1997, which introduced mandatory life sentences for second-time serious and violent offenders, and the Crime and Disorder Act of 1998, which introduced extended sentences for sex offenders and violent offenders, and the sex offender order for offenders released in the community. The government also published a white paper on reforming the Mental Health Act with proposals for the management of offenders with severe personality disorders.
In November 2000, the government passed the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act (CJCSA). The relevant sections were 66-69, which deal with sex offenders or violent offenders. These sections of the act were partly in response to a media campaign following the tragic murder of Sara Payne, and became known as "Sara's Law." Although this act received legislative approval last November, sections 67-68 did not become effective until this past April. These particular sections focused on a requirement that police and probation officials establish strategic management arrangements involving senior managers in each local area. (There are 42 local police and probation areas with matching boundaries.) The task of this arrangement is to monitor and review the local efforts to set up and manage mechanisms for monitoring high-risk offenders and to ensure that efforts are made to involve social services, and health and local housing authorities in the process.
Multiagency Public Protection Panels
Doyle noted that the key to monitoring dangerous offenders is establishing multiagency public protection panels (MAPPPs). Although there already existed some interagency arrangements as a result of SOA, CJCSA created a statutory duty for local police and probation services to establish a formal mechanism for the assessment and management of high-risk offenders. These panels, according to the seminar leaders, would enable the "responsible authority" -- namely, the police and probation agencies -- to discharge their statutory duty to assess and manage the risks posed by sex offenders, violent offenders and other potentially dangerous offenders. The purpose of these MAPPPs is to determine a process and system for the effective monitoring of the highest risk cases, including young offenders who meet the following criteria:
* Imminence of serious harm;
* Requiring unusual resource allocation;
* Media implications (i.e., high-profile cases being followed by the media); and
* Requiring involvement of other agencies not usually involved.
The participants were told that MAPPPs provide arrangements for assessing risks posed by certain offenders. CJCSA specifies sex offenders or violent offenders and any other person who, by reason of offenses committed, may cause serious harm to the public. Serious harm is defined in this context as "harm which is life-threatening or traumatic and from which recovery, whether physical or psychological, can be expected to be difficult or impossible." Generally, this applies to any offenders subject to the notification requirements of SOA, or those sentenced to imprisonment for 12 months or more. The intent is to provide for effective assessment and supervision of offenders who are likely to commit serious offenses. At a minimum, the panels will:
* Share information on those offenders referred to it;
* Decide on the risk level posed by the offenders;
* Recommend the action necessary to manage the risk, including any contingencies;
* Monitor and ensure implementation of the agreed action;
* Review the risk level and the action plan in light of changes in circumstances or behavior;
* Consider and manage necessary resources;
* Assess the need for community disclosure and other community issues; and
* Agree on a media strategy when appropriate.
As Doyle explained, the government's vision is that the public will be protected from dangerous offenders because of its efforts to provide balanced support through a number of legislative means initiated during the past three years. Such means include establishing a consistent national strategy -- as evidenced by creation of the National Probation Directorate's Dangerous Offenders Unit in the Home Office -- to monitor and guide local police and probation units in the implementation of the strategy and encouraging effective multiagency collaboration, especially in the area of police-probation partnerships as demonstrated by the creation of MAPPPs. The emphasis on scrutiny of the process, enforcement of court orders and promulgating best practices in the assessment and supervision of high-risk offenders is considered key in the provision of public protection. Finally, it is expected that local communities and crime victims will be able to contribute constructively to managing these offenders within the communi ty.
Tim Bryan then led seminar participants in a discussion of the requirement of each local area to file an annual report on the work carried out under MAPPPs. The report will consist of statistical information, a summary of the panel members' roles and responsibilities, an outline of the arrangements made for protection of the public and a description of the way disclosure was used to assist public protection. Also, the report must outline the work being performed to ensure that victims are informed about offenders' progress. The report, which will be submitted by each area to the National Probation Directorate and then compiled into one report for the minister and parliament, will be a means to provide a public profile to probation and police agencies, fulfilling their statutory responsibilities. It also will be a way to offer the public information on the progress of these agencies in managing high-risk offenders. The participants saw the report as a means to promote interagency partnerships.
As probation and police officials in North America seek ways to work together more closely, especially in the assessment and supervision of sex offenders and violent offenders, the monitoring of efforts in England and Wales may help sharpen the focus on the value of interagency cooperation and, as has been the case in some North American jurisdictions, partnerships that provide public protection.
Donald G. Evans is president of the Canadian Training Institute in Toronto.
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|Author:||Evans, Donald G.|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2001|
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