Managing risk: a qualitative study of community-based professionals working with learning-disabled sex offenders

Authors

  • J. HUTCHINSON MSc MA RNLD Dip MS PGCswpt,

    1. Director, Specialist Forensic Supported Living Service, New Focus, Preston
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  • A. LOVELL PhD RNLD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Reader, Department of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities, Faculty of Health and Social Care, University of Chester, Riverside Campus
      A. Lovell, Department of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities, Faculty of Health and Social Care, University of Chester, Riverside Campus, Castle Drive, Chester CH1 1SL, UK, E-mail: a.lovell@chester.ac.uk
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  • T. MASON PhD BSc (Hons) RMN RNMH RGN

    1. Professor of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities, Faculty of Health and Social Care, University of Chester, Chester, UK
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A. Lovell, Department of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities, Faculty of Health and Social Care, University of Chester, Riverside Campus, Castle Drive, Chester CH1 1SL, UK, E-mail: a.lovell@chester.ac.uk

Abstract

Accessible summary

  • • Practitioners within learning disability services rarely use organized actuarial assessments, preferring intuitive ones based on observation.
  • • There is little difference in risk assessment according to professional discipline.
  • • Sex offenders with learning disabilities require more systematic assessment to differentiate them from non-learning-disabled sex offenders.

Abstract

This study reports on research conducted to examine how community practitioners manage the difficulties of risk assessment in relation to people with a learning disability and a history of sexually offensive or abusive behaviour. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a number of key professionals from various disciplines, all currently involved in the assessment process with the aim of determining potential referral to community settings. Data analysis revolved around a thematic exposition of factors influencing the relationship between the objective science of psychiatric investigation and the subjective interpretation of real-world practicalities in working with this group. Findings surrounded three major themes, frame conflict, relating to the difficulties of decision making in this area, therapeutic performance, whereby professionals were expected to engage in some form of active intervention, and safety outcomes, involving consideration of the problematic nature of judging the likelihood of re-offending.

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