Responding to Sexual Offending in a Risk Society: A Review of Policy and Changes in Approach to Work With Perpetrators of Sexual Offending by the Probation Service in England and Wales

Published 10/16/2020
Type Article
Author(s) Jill Dealey
Corresponding Authors

According to Beck (1992), key aspects of a risk society are the surveillance and management of risk, and the use of actuarial tools to achieve these aims. These have also been central tasks for the probation service and police when working with individuals convicted of sexual offending behaviour. Through an initial examination of the risk society thesis, this paper examines how risk came to be a dominant concept in the management of sexual offending behaviour in England and Wales. It will discuss the impact on criminal justice legislation and the work of probation officers who were tasked with working with these offenders. The dominance of risk in working with sexual offending behaviour has been strengthened by Acts of Parliament such as the Sex Offender Act 1997, which introduced sex offender registration, and the Sex Offender Act 2003. The actuarial tools OASys and Risk Matrix 2000 were designed to be explicitly focused on risk. Yet there is a growing body of literature which argues that a holistic approach is effective in enabling desistance; and with the development of more recent risk assessment tools such as the Active Risk Management System (ARMS), there are indications that approaches to assessing and managing risk reflect this ethos.