McDermott, Chloe (2018) An Examination of the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme in One Police Service Area. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The study focuses on the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme (CSODS), an under-researched area in the management of sex offenders within the UK. With the rise of child sexual abuse reports and sex offender populations, strategies on preventing child sex abuse and managing risk has been a central issue within the criminal justice system and related agencies. As part of a shift in ecological-community-based approaches to crime prevention, CSODS was introduced to empower members of the public to request information so that they could make informed decisions on managing risk. However, lack of take-up, user issues and misunderstandings of the scheme resulted in public and political criticisms, despite police perceptions of the scheme maintaining that the scheme is worthwhile. The current research therefore explored the process of CSODS, how CSODS works within practice, and established how CSODS contributes to the management of risk (and thus the safeguarding of children). The aim of this was to help shed light on why police officers believe CSODS is worthwhile, despite evidential issues of the scheme.

Using a mixed-method approach, data was gathered within two phases. The first phase explored typical CSODS applications, from a sample of 20 random CSODS case files. The data was used to contextualise and illustrate the process of CSODS investigations, and provide an overview of typical applications. Phase 1 aimed to explore:
a. The nature of CSODS applications;
b. The typology of applicant and subjects, and their relationship;
c. The investigation of CSODS cases, following the process of CSODS;
d. The extent and nature of multi-agency involvement throughout a CSODS investigation.

Phase 2 comprised of 12 semi-structured interviews with police officers from one policing area about their views and experiences of working with CSODS. Phase 2 aimed to:
a. Determine the extent and nature of CSODS applications, as experienced by Northshire Police officers;
b. Explore the investigation of CSODS applications and officers’ experiences of the CSODS process;
c. Explore how CSODS contributes to wider risk management strategies;
d. Explore officers’ perceptions on issues relating to CSODS;
e. Explore officers’ recommendations for development/implementation of CSODS policy and practice.

The file data revealed that the largest groups of applicants were female (60%) and were aged 30-39 years (40%). Subjects featuring most commonly in enquiries were: applicants’ (own) new partners or applicants’ ex-partners’ new partners (39%), and applicants’ neighbours (33%). All of the subjects (100%) were male and the largest age group were those aged 30-39 (30%). Fifty-five per cent of the cases involved either shared risk assessments with other agencies or had other agency engagement throughout the CSODS application. Of the 16 cases that provided completed data, only three were completed within the CSODS timescales (19%). The majority of delays were within stages 4 (Full risk assessment), 5 (Decision of outcome) and 6 (Outcome and closure).

The interviews were analysed using thematic analysis, developing six main themes. The themes were integrated with the contextualising background of the file data, revealing three overarching themes: (1) The contribution of CSODS to wider risk management strategies; (2) Unintended (positive) consequences of CSODS; and (3) Implications of promoting CSODS. The current study reinforced previous research, policy and practice that, when used appropriately, multi-agency working and CSODS are useful for the community management of sex offenders. The present research shed light on how CSODS can contribute to the protection of children, as it provided a ‘safety net’ in cases where subjects are not managed under any other statutory arrangements (for example, children’s social care, probation or MAPPA), thus the police will become the only responsible body working and managing risk posed by certain individual (subjects). However, poor take up and engagement from the public raises concerns about the scheme’s legitimacy and effectiveness to act as a crime prevention tool. Officers reflected upon practical issues of promoting the scheme, such as issues on depleted resources, counter-productivity and targeting the appropriate audience.

Limitations and future directions of CSODS research are discussed, with wider reflection upon a new direction for the management of risk, through desistance and strength-based approaches.

McDermott FINAL THESIS.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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