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Scotland's council, prison and police chiefs were today instructed to review all their medium and high risk sex off...
Scotland's council, prison and police chiefs were today instructed to review all their medium and high risk sex offender cases, following publication today of the Social Work Inspection Agency report on James Campbell (see below).

Justice minister Cathy Jamieson has today written to local authority chief executives, the chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service, and chief constables, asking them to ensure that in light of the report, they are confident that:

* Sex offenders in their area have been subject to comprehensive and competent risk assessments.

* Appropriate arrangements for supervising such offenders are in place and being kept under regular review. These arrangements must include effective local procedures for managing sex offender accommodation.

The minister will also be asking agencies to ensure that the broader lessons and recommendations from the report are used to improve working practices across Scotland to minimise the risk of similar cases occurring elsewhere.

Each report will be required to be submitted to the SWIA, HM chief inspector of prisons and HM chief inspector of constabulary by the end of September. At that time, the agency will also be undertaking a planned inspection of North and South Lanarkshire criminal justice social work grouping during which it audit the performance of the authorities in applying the lessons from today's report.

Ms Jamieson said:

'Sex offenders may be small in number but they rightly generate considerable public concern. As today's report makes clear, we cannot completely eliminate the risk they pose. However, every agency involved in managing sex offenders - council social work and housing services, SPS and the police - must do everything possible to minimise that risk and protect the public.

'These organisations generally manage such responsibilities well. However this report shows how important it is to ensure that everything that can be done is done and that agencies continually ensure the highest standards of professional practice and management.

'I am determined that lessons from this case are not just learned locally, but nationally. And I have therefore asked all organisations involved in the management of sex offenders to undertake an immediate, thorough review of their medium and high risk sex offender cases.

'Clearly, all this work will be of little comfort to the victims and their families in the James Campbell case. However, I want to assure them this Executive - in partnership with the new Social Work Inspection Agency - will ensure that every organisation responsible for monitoring and managing sex offenders - in North Lanarkshire or elsewhere - learns lessons from today's report. And that appropriate and immediate steps are put in place to minimise the risk of similar events happening again.'

The Social Work Services Inspection Agency report can be accessed here and here.

Copies of the report are being sent, accompanied by the minister's letter about the audit are today being sent to council chief executives, chief constables, and the chief executive of SPS.

Community Criminal Justice Groupings who are responsible for providing criminal justice services to offenders in the community, will prepare and conduct each review and will liaise with the police and SPS colleagues on this.

The review should be conducted as soon as possible - but thoroughly. All reports must be submitted to Alexis Jay, chief inspector of the SWIA, Andrew McLellan, HMCIP, Andrew Brown by September 30. They will follow-up on these reports during the course of future inspections.

Current work underway by the Executive to improve the management of sex offenders includes:

* Taking forward provisions in the Management of Offenders etc (Scotland) Bill to place a duty on the police, criminal justice social work and SPS to establish joint arrangements for assessing and managing the risk they pose

* A review of the operation of the sex offenders' registration scheme to check whether further improvements are required. Professor George Irving has been appointed to undertake this review. We expect to receive this report in the summer.

* Providing funding for enhanced training for up to 500 frontline police and social workers in assessing the risk which individual sex offenders pose to their communities.

* Creation of the Risk Management Authority - a recently appointed independent body which has responsibility for ensuring the effective assessment and management of risk. It will set standards for and issue guidance to those involved in the assessment and minimisation of risk, accredit staff to ensure they are properly experienced, carry out research and promote best practice.

* Improvements to throughcare services for sex offenders through an enhanced strategy which seeks to deliver better public protection through closer supervision of prisoners released on licence and certain target groups.

* Providing funding to the Chartered Institute of Housing to take forward work to inform the development of a national accommodation strategy for sex offenders. Following research commissioned by the CIH and taking account of wider Executive measures to reduce the risk posed by sex offenders, further work is now underway to prepare a national accommodation strategy and to update good practice guidance for landlords.

SWIA publishes report on James Campbell case

An investigation by the Social Work Inspection Agency into North Lanarkshire Council's handling of the James Campbell case has found weaknesses among all the agencies involved and at all stages during the offender's time in prison and on release.

The investigation - ordered by justice minister Cathy Jamieson - followed public concerns relating to Campbell who in September 2004 pled guilty to abducting and attempting to rape a two year-old while on extended licence for a previous serious sexual assault.

The SWIA examined his access to rehabilitation in prison, preparation for release, accommodation on release and the level of supervision and support after release. The inspectors also looked at what broader lessons there are to be learned locally and nationally from this case.

The report, published today, found that:

* While the risk posed by Campbell could not be completely eliminated, overall there was a systemic breakdown between the police, social work and SPS in managing the risk he posed.

* The council failed to give sufficient priority to this case, did not appoint a social worker at the start of his prison term, pre-release work to identify suitable accommodation was unsuccessful and emergency accommodation had to be found, and did not ensure Campbell fulfilled one of his key release conditions - undertaking addiction treatment.

* The Scottish Prison Service did not provide Campbell with access to rehabilitation during his original sentence, the prison's social work unit took one month instead of two days to interview him after he arrived there and took six months to appoint a new prison social worker after his original one left.

* The local police did not consult social work colleagues when they undertook their risk assessment - despite the Sex Offender Act guidance stating that for medium to high risk offenders, officers should work with social work services and other agencies to consider how best to manage the risk.

Angus Skinner, Scotland's outgoing chief inspector of social work services, said:

'Managing the risks posed by sex offenders is a complex process. While the risk can never be completely eliminated, it is the job of SPS, local authority social work services, police and other agencies to do everything possible to assess those risks and work together to take the best possible steps to protect the public.

'This investigation looked at the role of all the local agencies involved in the James Campbell case and highlights the importance of ensuring that all these organisations - individually and collectively - provide a high standard of service, and one which gives the public the protection they need and expect.

'There are vital lessons which must be learned by the North Lanarkshire council, SPS and Strathclyde Police. The Social Work Inspection Agency will therefore carry out a follow-up inspection of the council and its partners later in the year to ensure that the recommendations in today's report are implemented in full.

'As part of its rigorous, rolling inspection of criminal justice social services across Scotland, the agency will also be checking to ensure that in line with ministerial intentions, agencies elsewhere in Scotland have carefully considered the recommendations in today's report. And that they have used the lessons from this case to improve their local management of sex offenders, to reduce the risk of similar events happening elsewhere.'

Keyrecommendations in today's report include:

* Social work services in the prison and community should ensure prisoners subject to extended sentence receive no less than the minimum standard of service, as set out in Executive guidance.

* All agencies should give high-risk offenders the highest priority for service provision.

* Local authorities should ensure that social work and housing staff work together to identify accommodation for sex offenders. This should happen within the wider context of risk management and involve the police and other agencies when appropriate.

* The Executive should work with housing agencies to develop a national strategy on the housing of sex offenders, in line with the report from the Expert Panel on Sex Offenders.

* Social work services and the police should ensure there is effective collaboration in carrying out risk assessment and risk management duties, and all those involved in assessing sex offenders should use internationally-recognised risk assessment tools and train their staff to use them.

* The Scottish Prison Service should ensure that short-term prisoners who are sex offenders receive assessment and treatment appropriate to their needs.

* The Executive should work with all agencies involved in the management of sex offenders to produce a national protocol for sex offender management.

Ms Jamieson announced on 21 October 2004 that she had asked the Social Work Services Inspectorate (now replaced by the Social Work Inspection Agency) to investigate North Lanarkshire Council's handling of the James Campbell case.

A month earlier, this offender had pled guilty to abducting and attempting to rape a two year-old while on extended licence for a previous, serious sexual assault.

The investigation examined all aspects of the handling of Mr Campbell's case, including: preparation for release arrangements, accommodation, level of supervision and support, and whether there were broader lessons to be learned from the case.

SWIA, which formally took over responsibility for inspecting council social work services at the beginning of this month, already has plans as part of its rolling programme to inspect North and South Lanarkshire's criminal justice social work grouping over September and October. During that inspection, to be led by the head of the new agency, Alexis Jay, SWIA will carefully audit the performance of the authorities in applying the lessons from today's report.

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