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Experimental interventions with sex offenders: a brief review of their efficacy
  1. David Crighton1,
  2. Graham Towl2
  1. 1Deputy Chief Psychologist, National Offender Management Service, Home Office, London, UK
  2. 2Chief Psychologist, National Offender Management Service, Home Office, London, UK

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Sexual offending is an area which generates considerable public concern and which has received much attention, with a marked growth in a range of experimental interventions designed to reduce the risk of re-offending among participants. A number of significant challenges arise from this including the polythetic nature of the category “sex offender”. Any two people identified as sex offenders may have different and non-overlapping patterns of behaviour. Additionally most research and practice has focussed on those detected and convicted of sexual offences. Rates of reporting, detection and conviction in this area are generally very low, which suggests the existence of a large pool of undetected offenders. The extent to which this group differs from convicted groups is rarely acknowledged, yet an understanding of this is likely to be fundamental to efforts to prevent such offending and improve public protection.1,2

There have been two Cochrane Collaboration reviews of interventions with known sex offenders.3,4 Strikingly both reviews found no high quality randomised studies. The great majority of the research was excluded from review and was characterised as small scale and non-randomised, having high exclusion rates and being of relatively poor standard. Both reviews found only a small number of randomised studies, all of which had important weaknesses in terms of the description of randomisation and efforts to ensure blinding in assessment.

Currently, cognitive behavioural group work is fashionable in the treatment of convicted sex offenders. The use of this approach, based on relapse prevention principles, was compared with a no treatment group by Marques et al.5 The mean duration of follow-up for this study was three years. No difference was found between the two groups in terms of rates of sexual offending (OR 0.76, 95% CI 0.26 to 2.28). The treatment group showed lower rates for …

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