HL Deb 02 November 1998 vol 594 cc32-4WA
Lord Dholakia

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What Government sponsored research is currently being conducted into sex offenders; and what measures are currently being taken or considered by the Government to protect the public from such offenders. [HL3537]

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The following studies are expected to be published before the end of this year:

  • a literature review on sex offending against children;
  • a study on risk assessment, aiming to provide advice to the police on how to assess the risks presented by convicted sex offenders in the community;
  • a study on repeat victimisation of physically and sexually abused children; and
  • thematic inspections on lifers by Her Majesty's Inspectorates of Prisons and Probation.

Work has recently begun on the following projects:

  • an evaluation of the sex offender register set up under the Sex Offenders Act 1997;
  • a study on assessing dangerous offender risk in practice, aiming to review current police practice in assessing risks presented by sex offenders and others, and to identify good practice and the WA 33 organisational structures which facilitate effective risk assessment;
  • a comparative study of risk assessment scales in use by the Prison Service and the Probation Service; and
  • a survey of prison and probation officers' experience of using these scales.

We are taking a range of measures to protect the public, for instance:

  • the Prison Service runs sex offender treatment programmes in a number of establishments, and work is in hand to maximise the effectiveness of these;
  • we give financial support to the Lucy Faithfull Foundation's Wolvercote Clinic for the treatment of sex offenders; and
  • the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 provides for extended supervision for sex offenders for up to 10 years where appropriate, and for sex offender orders.

These orders will apply to convicted sex offenders who, on account of their present behaviour, are deemed still to pose a risk to the community. The courts will be able to impose conditions necessary to protect the community from serious harm, for example, by preventing offenders from loitering near schools and playgrounds:

  • In May, the Home Secretary instructed officials to convene a group to identify, high-profile, difficult-to-place sex offenders in prison and assess the plans for their release, to monitor their handling and to consider any funding necessary to meet the likely additional accommodation costs;
  • an interdepartmental working group is considering safeguards to prevent unsuitable people from working with children, and a joint Home Office and Department of Health working party is considering the management of people with severe personality disorders; and
  • the Home Office is also working with the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to improve the arrangements for housing sex offenders.