The realities of legislating against and protecting the public from risky groups

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In the world of public protection the application of sanctions to those assessed as posing a risk of harm takes a significant departure from how most offenders are dealt with. In essence, this distinction is simple to understand; it is based upon the harm people might pose in the future as much as on the harm they have already done. In other words they are to be dealt with for potential, future crimes or harmful behaviour. Indeed, in the most recent developments, discussed below, it is not even necessary for some individuals to have a previous history of criminal behaviour. They, like others, can be brought into the ‘system’ through the use of civil-law-based measures grounded upon a suspicion (or some might say prediction) that they might harm individuals in the future. Underpinning these measures and in essence forming their central rationale is the assessment of the risk of harm an individual may pose to the public. We will discuss risk assessment elsewhere in this chapter and it runs as a theme throughout the volume. Suffice it to say that there should be sufficient doubts about its effectiveness to at least pause the constant introduction of new criminal, civil and regulatory measures deployed against this group. However, any analysis of these measures over the past 2 decades might suggest that the only caution exercised has been the reluctance to be more discriminating in the use of the high-risk or dangerous label; indeed, public protection has become a very inclusive agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResponding to sexual offending
Subtitle of host publicationperceptions, risk management and public protection
EditorsKieran McCartan
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Print)9781137358127, 1137358122
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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