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Sex offender treatment programme that RAISED risk of reoffending in England and Wales

The Gazette Staff

A sex offender treatment programme raised the risk of reoffending after murderers, rapists and paedophiles were grouped together to share graphic details of crimes. 

There are calls for greater oversight of rehabilitation schemes after two sex offenders have revealed what it was like taking part in the programme.

The government’s scheme for people convicted of rape or child sexual abuse in England and Wales was scrapped in 2017. Now, two convicts have told BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 what taking part in it entailed.  

‘Everything was discussed in minute detail,’ one told the show. ‘They had what was called the “hot seat” and every prisoner that was in a group had to sit in the hot seat and they were bombarded – it was like an interrogation.’

The government's scheme for people convicted of rape or child sexual abuse in England and Wales was scrapped in 2017 (file photo)

The government's scheme for people convicted of rape or child sexual abuse in England and Wales was scrapped in 2017 (file photo)

The government’s scheme for people convicted of rape or child sexual abuse in England and Wales was scrapped in 2017 (file photo)

Giving his name only as Paul, the 60-year-old discussed his involvement in the Sex Offender Treatment Programme (SOTP), which was founded in the early 1990s.

Paul is currently serving a long prison sentence and has been convicted of rape among other offences. 

He says he started SOTP on three separate occasions as a form of cognitive therapy aiming to help offenders think and act in different ways.

But facilitators removed him from the programme each time because they believed he was learning anything, he claims.

Paul believes that discussing serious offences in a group setting normalised the behaviour inherent in their crimes.

And he also thinks that serious offenders sharing details of their crimes with convicts who’d committed less serious abuse made the latter inmates ‘worse’. 

In such sessions, rapists, child sex offenders and murderers would be placed with people guilty of indecent exposure, he says.   

‘People were learning from their mistakes – they were learning from other group members how to perhaps be better sex offenders without being caught,’ he said.

Ten per cent of the men who completed SOTP reoffended, compared with eight per cent of those who had not enrolled in the scheme, the Ministry of Justice found. 

The MoJ published its results five years after Kathryn Hopkins raised concerns that the scheme might be failing.   

The Ministry of Justice (pictured) found that 10 per cent of those who took part in the SOTP would reoffend

The Ministry of Justice (pictured) found that 10 per cent of those who took part in the SOTP would reoffend

The Ministry of Justice (pictured) found that 10 per cent of those who took part in the SOTP would reoffend 

Paul said that prisoners were encouraged to reveal their victims’ names and go into graphic detail about their history. 

Dr Robert Forde, a retired forensic psychologist who used to work for the Home Office, shares many of his concerns.

He told the programme that an inmate had said to him: ‘I hate doing this course because I’ve never had so many deviant sexual thoughts as I’ve had since I started because we’re talking about sex offending all the time and actually I want to get away from all that.’

One prisoner, who was abused as a child, told him that he was required to detail his ordeals in front of paedophiles, who became aroused by what he was saying.  

And another told Dr Forde that if you could trick the system by claiming to have deviant thoughts then dropping them during the post-course assessment.  

He said the prisoners could secure a lower risk score by engaging in such a deception.   

A former inmate calling himself Peter, aged in his 50s, served two sentences for sex offences against children as well as possessing indecent images.

He said that the SOTP provides a false feeling that you’ve been fixed but in reality just forces you to relive offences.  

The ex-prisoner believes that to become a useful member of society, inmates need to learn how to move forward.  

Peter says that the Healthy Sex Programme was more helpful because it focused on steps to overcoming his issues in one-to-one sessions.  

He is currently seeking support at the Corbett Centre in Nottingham, which offers help and support for about 30 sex offenders. 

It is not yet known whether the scheme at the Corbett Centre reduces reoffending in the long term.  

The Healthy Sex Programme is being evaluated and Horizon and Kaizen, which replaced the SOTP, have not yet been tested.   

The MoJ told the BBC that it works closely with the Correctional Services Accreditation and Advice Panel when designing prison and probation programmes.    

The department says that independent experts from across the world for the panel, which must approve schemes before use.   

But forensic psychiatrists Penny Brown and Callum Ross are so alarmed by the SOTP’s failings that they are demanding greater oversight of new treatment.

The Lancet Psychiatry medical journal published a paper they have written in this week’s edition.

Dr Brown said she wants reassurance that government policy research is under as much scrutiny as all other scientists.

She added that the need to show that you’re taking action should not override the risk of causing harm.   

 

 

Source : Mail Online

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