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MANAGING SEX OFFENDERS: REVIEW HIGHLIGHTS 'COMPLEX AND DIFFICULT' TASK FACED BY COUNCILS

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North Lanarkshire Council has issued the following statement on the Social Work Inspection Agency report* on the Ja...
North Lanarkshire Council has issued the following statement on the Social Work Inspection Agency report* on the James Campbell case published yesterday.

North Lanarkshire Council chief executive Gavin Whitefield said:

'We fully accept that there are lessons to be learned from the review and

the council has started to take action to address those recommendations

which relate to us. North Lanarkshire Council, in conjunction with other

partners where appropriate, will implement the remainder of the

recommendations as soon as possible.

'The investigation did not find evidence that any of the issues behind the

lessons to be learned, either for individual agencies or in joint working,

would have prevented the incident from taking place. It highlights

weaknesses in systems and processes. The council has invested substantial

resources in providing what are usually high standards of services. It is

disappointing that in this case we have not met those standards.

'The report does recognise, however, that even the most accurate forms of

risk assessment and the most effective supervision arrangements

regrettably will not guarantee that a determined offender will not

re-offend, as it is not possible to eliminate risk altogether.

'The findings of the independent review also highlight the complex and

difficult task faced on a daily basis by local authorities and partner

agencies across Scotland in managing sex offenders in the community. The

recommendations recognise some of the national issues around managing sex

offenders in the community which we believes requires further legislation,

a matter that this council has raised with Scottish ministers previously.

'We will also be responding to the minister's instruction for Scottish

councils, the prison service and the police to review medium and high risk

sex offenders as a priority.'

* SWIA report

Notes

The council fully accepts the lessons to be learned identified in the

report. It is however important to note that:

1.The incident itself has not been assessed as an avoidable one, nor

have any of the specified lessons to be learned been identified as

contributory factors. The report notes that, 'Even if the agencies had

managed this case to an optimal standard it is still entirely possible

that the offence would have taken place, as risk can never be eliminated

altogether'.

2.No member of staff has been identified as being negligent in their

actions; issues identified are systemic in nature.

3.Whilst the process of finding accommodation for the offender is

described as laborious, the use of the homeless persons unit is not

subject to criticism by the SWIA. The report recognises that for the most

part, knowing where a sex offender is and being able to monitor and manage

them effectively is one of the strongest safeguards for the public.

4.The nature and quality of the risk assessments undertaken by all

agencies has been highlighted. There is currently no common nationally

accredited risk assessment tool used by agencies working with high risk

offenders, although the police and criminal justice social work across

Scotland are working to address this. The report recognises however, that

'even the most accurate forms of risk assessment will be wrong in a

percentage of cases, and even the most diligent supervision package will

not guarantee that a determined offender will not offend. It is never

possible to eliminate risk altogether'.

5.The development of the Joint Protocol for Managing Sex Offenders has

been acknowledged, albeit it has been suggested that it would benefit from

being simplified. North Lanarkshire and Strathclyde Police, 'N' Division

developed the protocol to improve inter agency communication and strong

inter agency links are recognised within the report.

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