The Police as Formal Agents of Change: Assisting Desistance in Individuals Convicted of Sexual Offences

Pemberton, Sarah, Kewley, Stephanie and Mydlowski, Leona orcid iconORCID: 0009-0006-5272-4897 (2023) The Police as Formal Agents of Change: Assisting Desistance in Individuals Convicted of Sexual Offences. Journal of Community Safety and Well-Being, 8 (4). pp. 191-196.

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Comprehensive and multi-disciplinary public health approaches are necessary to prevent sexual re-offending, as noted by Kewley et al. (2021). However, criminal justice solutions continue to dominate (McCartan & Richards, 2021) and the arrangement in England and Wales is no exception to this. The introduction of the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) in 2003 brought together the work of the police, prison and probation services in order to manage violent and sexual offenders. This paper focuses specifically on the work of the specialist police officers who are tasked under MAPPA with the Management of Sexual or Violent Offenders (MOSOVO) and whether or not they can assist desistance in those who have been convicted of a sexual offence. We argue that the risk-based, highly politicalised model of public protection that MOSOVOs operate within creates tensions more likely to hinder rather than facilitate desistance. Echoed by findings in an independent review of the Police’s Management of Registered Sex Offenders (2023) successful desistance journeys are found in people who are supported by formal agents who actively promote hope and optimism and convey a belief that the person attempting desistance can change. In conclusion, we recommend that MOSOVOs must be willing and resourced to help individuals with sexual convictions develop a non-offending lifestyle and identity and support them in achieving this goal which requires the provision comprehensive support beyond risk management.

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