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Kieran McCartan University of the West of England, Bristol

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Presentation on theme: "Kieran McCartan University of the West of England, Bristol"— Presentation transcript:

1 Kieran McCartan University of the West of England, Bristol

2 Contents Understanding contemporary definitions and responses to Child sexual abuse generally in the UK and more specifically in Northern Ireland The origins of sex offender registration and public disclosure of sex offender information in the UK: Attitudes toward Public disclosure of sex offender information in the UK: The realities and impact of the public disclosure of sex offender information in Northern Ireland Does public disclosure contradict the ethos of restorative justice and reconciliation in Northern Ireland? Public disclosure, sexual offender management, public protection and government policy.

3 Contemporary understandings of and social reactions to Child Sexual Abuse Child sexual abuse, especially paedophilia, is a high profile social issue and moral panic (Thomas, 2005; Davidson, 2008). Child sexual abuse is a high profile and central issue for the government, politicians and policy makers; as demonstrated by the debates in the previous election. Understandings of Paedophilia & Child Sexual Abuse Paedophilia is a form of Child Sexual Abuse, but not all Child Sexual Abuse is Paedophilia Paedophilia is a confused and often contested term, with both it and Child Sexual Abuse often getting used interchangeably (Harrison et al, In Press; McCartan, 2008, 2010) The media has helped to create and maintain the current discourses around Paedophilia & Child Sexual Abuse, feeding government and public (mis)understandings (McCartan, 2010; Davidson, 2008) The media misrepresent the complexity of paedophilia often discussing it in one-dimensional, sensationalistic and simplistic terms which results in a weakened and skewed public understanding. (Silverman & Wilson, 2002; Thomas, 2005; Kitzinger, 2005). The Government misperceive paedophilia/CSA as being solely about risk, therefore responding in terms of risk reduction and public protection not on treatment, prevention and/or reintegration (McCartan, 2008). Public seem to have a good general idea of CSA & Paedophilia, but this diminishes upon closer inspection (McCartan, 2004, 2010) Research in Northern Ireland indicates that the public are quite concerned about Child Sexual Abuse, believe the offenders to be evil and unable to be treated (Northern Ireland Office, 2007; McCartan, 2004) However, how should we respond to Child Sexual Abusers - Punish vs. Rehabilitate ?

4 UK Child sexual abuse policy developments In recent years there has been a series of high profile changes in UK policy and legislation regarding child sexual abuse (Home Office, 2007). (Child) Sex Offender Policy has been driven by High profile media stories Reactionary public attitudes Evidence based research Sex offender management developments in policy & practice; The Crime and Disorder Act 1998; The Sex Offenders Act 1997, which established the sex offenders register & the expansion of the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB); The Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, which introduced Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA); The News of the world & Sarahs charter (not Sarah's law) Sex Offences act 2003 The establishment of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CE0P) in These child sexual abuse policies and legislative changes have had varying degrees of success

5 Sex Offender management, policy & practice in Northern Ireland Northern Ireland does not necessarily have legislation, policy and practice that sits directly in line with, or come on board at the same time as, the rest of the UK. Offences Against the Person Act 1861 The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 Children & young persons act (northern Ireland) 1968 Protection of children (Northern Ireland) order 1978 Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 1988 the Sexual Offences Amendment Act 2000 Multi-Agency Sex Offender Risk Assessment and Management (MASRAM) introduced in 2001 Sex offences act 2003 Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) order 2008 Criminal justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 MASRAM changed to Public Protection Arrangements Northern Ireland (PPANI) Arrangements for notification of sex offenders from jurisdictions outside of the UK Call for an all Ireland sex offenders register from the Northern Ireland Affairs committee (BBC, 2009) The relationship between the Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in monitoring sex offenders. The public disclosure of sex offenders information will be implemented in nationally (Home Office, 2010); but only England, Wales & Scotland have discussed it and started making plans – so what does this mean for Northern Ireland.

6 Sex offender notification: origins & realities The public disclosure of sex offender information (i.e., Sarahs Law) has had more public and political debate than any other piece of child sexual abuse policy and legislation. This initiative is modelled upon Megans Law and was promoted by the News of the World and Sara Payne as a result of the abduction, rape and murder of her daughter Sarah Payne in 2000 (McCartan, 2010; Silverman & Wilson, 2002). The UK governments approach and react ion to Sarah's Law The UK government has had a problematic, often inconsistent attitude towards the public disclosure of sex offender information. public disclosure was rejected on public protection grounds (Plotnikoff & Woolfson, 2000; Dodd, 2000, July 24:; Morris, 2000, July 31:, Was reconsidered and provisionally agreed to (Assinder, 2006, June 20:;), before being quickly discounted again (Travis, 2007, April 11: Then partial public disclosure of sex offender information was agreed to and implemented (Home Office, 2007) The year long Public Disclosure Pilot (Kemshall et al, 2010) revealed low inquiry rates by the public, high degrees of public confidentiality and no public disorder or vigilantism Agreed to implement the full public disclosure of sex offender information in England & Wales, regardless of the general election outcome (Travis, 2010, January 24:,

7 Attitudes toward Public disclosure Public Public are seem to be pro public disclosure (McCartan 2004; Critcher, 2002). A Northern Irish sample seemed to be more in favour of public disclosure of sex offender information (64%) than a comparative English one (37%) (McCartan, 2004). Media Different media outputs (TV, Radio, Press), types (Tabloid, Broadsheet) and sizes (international, national, regional, local) have different approaches and attitudes. The News of The world Sarah Payne campaigns Condemnation by policy makers and the government (Morris 2000; Dodd 2000). Mixed reactions from the media, who whilst they supported Sarahs Charter condemned public disclosure (Critcher 2002; Hodgson 2001). The Payne family were positive about the campaigns (Day 2001). Seemingly wide spread public support (Critcher 2002), Professionals NSPCC is anti uncontrolled public disclosure of sex offender information, but does support strictly controlled and regulated disclosure (June, 2010) The police seem to be anti-public disclosure (PSNI, November 2008) Division in the coalition – Conservatives are more pro it than the Lib Dems (Travis, 2010, January 24: But what does the Northern Ireland Assembly & Northern Irish Politicians think? Mixed professional attitudes (Kemshall et al, 2010; McCartan, 2007) Offender concerns and issues around realistic offender management (Kemshall et al, 2010)

8 The planned public disclosure scheme it is not an aim of this scheme to introduce a US-style Megans Law or automatic disclosure of sexual offenders details to the general public.. (Home Office, 2010; 2) Disclosure process: Stage 1: Enquiries Anyone is free to make enquires, but primary & secondary care givers maybe more successful than others Written application and preliminary police check Only gets passed on if directly relating to a specific child Stage 2: Applications Formal application done through face-to-face interview with a trained/specialised member of the police Full background checks are done on the applicant Stage 3: Information & empowerment Stage 4: Full risk assessment Stage 5: Decision routes and outcomes A decision on concerns or no concerns about the offender in question is made. Concerns = previous conviction for child sexual abuse and/or other acts regarding the safeguarding children, as well as intelligence on the subject regarding child safety concerns ( Information will only be disclosed to the person best suited to protect the child. All decisions will be given in person in a secure setting, no written conformation will be given. (i.e., MAPPA or Case Conference) Advice/guidance on the limits and/or implications of disclosure: May only be used for the purpose it was requested (i.e., child protection) The applicant will have to agree and sign that the information is confidential and they will not disclose this information further, which could result in legal proceedings. If the person is not willing to sign the undertaking, the police will need to consider if disclosure should still take place.

9 Public disclosure of sex offender information & Northern Ireland (I) The Northern Ireland context : Transitional society - moving from the troubles to a normal society. The peace building, reconciliation, justice and punishment – a difficult balancing act? Northern Ireland has policing, justice and social inclusion issues; but what does this mean beyond the context of political violence? Sexual violence in Northern Ireland Sexual abuse and sexual violence are often underreported There are currently 928 people on the sex offenders register in Northern Ireland (PSNI, 2010) Sex Offender notification requirements (i.e., the sex offenders register ) has an over 90% sign up rate and works well in Northern Ireland (Committee for Justice, Northern Ireland Assembly, 2010) - Government Practice & Policy In relation to the rest of the UK & to Ireland? Northern Ireland in line with or different to the UK & Ireland? To what degree is this righ, appropriate and acceptable? Will uniquely Northern Irish factors play a role in the development of public disclosure policy (issues around policing and justice; the impact of finical cuts; political division and debate; history of the troubles)?

10 Public disclosure of sex offender information & Northern Ireland (II) Policing, the justice system & managing offenders What is the impact of releasing sex offender information, how it will applicant confidentiality be monitored? Is this more likely to happen and the applicant be identified because of the close communities as well as tight social networks in Northern Ireland? What will happen if the applicants break confidentiality? Will there be increase cost (time, money and resources) around policing sex offenders as a result of this? Will it lead to an increase in offenders going underground and/or crossing the border into Ireland? What will its affect be on individual management and attitudes to offender rehabilitation in general? Public Protection Is the release of sex offender information (even in this limited way) helpful in terms of protecting the public? Sex offender protection, vigilantism and policing? Popular punitiveness, risk management or the government/criminal justice system shifting the responsibility? Because risk can, and is, managed in different ways.

11 Public disclosure of sex offender information & Northern Ireland (III) Restorative justice vs. Community justice Does public disclosure go against the current theme of reconciliation, reintegration and forgiveness taking place in northern Ireland? Is public disclosure reintergrative shamming, another from of punishment or a social control mechanism? Would the public disclosure of sex offender information indicate a hierarchy of offenders justified by the state? Culture of community action and community empowerment Community bonding and strong social networks are central in Northern Ireland - therefore what would the reality of (limited) public disclosure be? Is informal public disclosure already happening ? if so to what degree? And what is the outcome - Overt or subtle community pressure? What would the impact be upon communities with a history of empowerment and action? Would they take the law into their own hands or go through the legitimate channels? Sex offending, sectarianism and retaliation – intra-community bonding vs. Inter-community division Would this lead to greater intra community bonding or greater intra community dissolution? Would this lead to cross community bonding in response to a common enemy? Would different communities have a more negative response to internal or external sex offenders? Especially if they are doubly deviance (a sex offender and political dissent) Sexual abuse by clergy or high profile lay church members and its impact upon communities.

12 Conclusions Does public disclosure contradict and work against restorative justice and reconciliation in Northern Ireland? With the public disclosure of sex offender information being rolled out nationally what does this mean for Northern Ireland, in terms of: Financial cost (i.e., police and the Criminal Justice System) Social, political & cultural cost The continuing successful management of sex offenders Research: With Pilot studies having been carried out in England and Scotland, will there be any in Northern Ireland? What, if any research has been carried out on the impact of public disclosure in northern Ireland?

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