5.3 Risks Posed by People with Convictions Against Children, including Bail Arrangements for Adults Charged
A good indicator of future risk is past behaviour and, therefore, where persons with convictions for offences against children come into contact with children, an assessment should be made of the risk posed.
AMENDMENTIn June 2015, new Section 7, Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme was added on the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme.
- Relevant Offences
- Assessing Risk
- Factors to Consider
- Management of Convicted Sex Offenders
- Concerns about People Suspected of Offences
- Exchanging Information about Dangerous People
- Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme
The terms ‘Schedule One Offender’ and ‘Schedule One Offence’ have been commonly used for anyone convicted of an offence against a child listed in Schedule One of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. However, a conviction for an offence in Schedule One does not trigger any statutory requirement in relation to child protection issues; inclusion within the definition of Schedule One Offender was determined solely by the age of the victim and the offence for which the offender was sentenced, and not by an assessment of future risk of harm to children.
For this reason, the terms Schedule One offence and Schedule One Offender are no longer used and have been replaced by references to Risk to Children Offenders. This clearly indicates that the person has been identified as presenting a risk, or potential risk, to children.
In relation to offenders, Home Office Guidance (‘Guidance on offences against Children’, Home Office Circular 16/2005) explains how those who present a risk to children should be identified. The circular explains that the present method of automatically identifying as a risk to children an offender who has been convicted of a Schedule One offence fails to focus on those who continue to present a risk.
The new list of offences contained in the circular (see the List of Offences which can be used to identify those who present a risk, or potential risk, to children) should operate as a trigger to a further assessment to determine if an offender should be regarded as presenting a continued risk of harm to children.
Once an individual has been sentenced and identified as presenting a risk to children, agencies have a responsibility to work collaboratively to monitor and manage the risk of harm to others. Where the offender is given a community sentence, offender managers have responsibility for monitoring the individual’s risk to others and their behaviour, and liaising with partner agencies as necessary.
Where such an offender is known to be, or is suspected of being, in contact with a child or children now, or in the immediate future, a referral should be made to Children's Social Care in accordance with the Making Referrals to Children's Social Care Procedure, and consideration should be given to the making of enquiries under these procedures to determine whether any protective action should be taken. The following guidance is supplementary to those sections.
Only an analysis of the context and seriousness of the offence(s) linked to an analysis of the current circumstances will enable professionals to make a valid assessment of risk.
It must be noted that professionals can only look at the known facts. Speculation as to the reasons and circumstances of any plea, are generally unsafe. Similarly, reliance upon the type of offence for which someone is convicted is not necessarily a reliable indicator of its seriousness.
When undertaking an assessment it is important to consider a number of factors.
These will include:
- The date of the offence;
- The age of the perpetrator in relation to the victim;
- The type of offence;
- The degree of coercive or threatening behaviour;
- The pattern of offending;
- The circumstances of the offence;
- Any subsequent assessments of risk;
- The offender’s attitude to the offence.
The Sex Offenders Act 1997 introduced the requirement for people convicted of certain sex offences to register with the Police. All agencies must inform the police if they are aware of a sex offender who has changed their address, or is planning to move, without informing the police.
All such people are subject to the MAPPA (Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements).
The MAPPA process necessarily dovetails into these procedures. It is designed to support these procedures; however it should not hinder or delay the application of necessary protective action where required in specific cases. For further information, see Protocol Between the Greater Manchester (GM) MAPPA Strategic Management Board (SMB) and the GM Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs).
These must be addressed with caution. However, a lack of conviction for a criminal offence does not necessarily mean that a response under these procedures or through the civil courts is inappropriate.
In such cases legal and professional advice should be sought.
In some civil cases, e.g. Care Proceedings, findings of fact have been made and should be responded to as if there was a conviction.
It is important for all agencies to be clear about the need and the reasons for exchanging information about people considered to be a risk to children. Unless exceptional circumstances apply, the subject of the information should be informed of the intention to share. For detailed guidance, see Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure.
It is not the transfer of information itself which protects children, but the assessment and action which that information enables. Therefore, it is important that information is full enough to enable effective analysis and assessment to take place.
When a decision is taken to transfer information about a person who is considered to be dangerous, this should include:
- Personal details, i.e. full name, date of birth, relevant addresses;
- Details of the offender, type of offence and date;
- Details of sentence (if applicable);
- Victim details, i.e. full name, date of birth, relationship to offender;
- Current relevance of the offence, including known or likely contact with children.
This will enable those undertaking a Section 47 Enquiry to have access to the full facts so that the decision-making process can operate effectively.
The Child Sex Offender Review (CSOR) Disclosure Scheme is designed to provide members of the public with a formal mechanism to ask for disclosure about people they are concerned about, who have unsupervised access to children and may therefore pose a risk. This scheme builds on existing, well established third-party disclosures that operate under the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).
Police will reveal details confidentially to the person most able to protect the child (usually parents, carers or guardians) if they think it is in the child’s interests.
The scheme has been operating in all 43 police areas in England and Wales since 2010. The scheme is managed by the Police and information can only be accessed through direct application to them.
If a disclosure is made, the information must be kept confidential and only used to keep the child in question safe. Legal action may be taken if confidentiality is breached. A disclosure is delivered in person (as opposed to in writing) with the following warning:
- That the information must only be used for the purpose for which it has been shared i.e. in order to safeguard children;
- The person to whom the disclosure is made will be asked to sign an undertaking that they agree that the information is confidential and they will not disclose this information further;
- A warning should be given that legal proceedings could result if this confidentiality is breached. This should be explained to the person and they must sign the undertaking’ (Home Office, 2011, p16).
If the person is unwilling to sign the undertaking, the police must consider whether the disclosure should still take place.
For further information see Appendix 2: Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme.