Risk assessment by statistics? a critical examination of the clinical and actuarial risk assessment approaches used within the probation service to assess sexual offenders

  • Elizabeth Doble

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This Doctorate research study has aimed to critically review the concepts of risk and risk assessment processes of sex offenders within the Probation Service. It has sought to critically examine the uses and application of the risk assessment tools of the Offender Assessment System and Risk Matrix 2000 in relation to sexual offenders, and examine practitioners opinions and perspectives regarding the effectiveness of these tools for aiding in understanding and managing the risks posed of sexual offenders. It has also aimed to critically examine the level of practitioners experience and training as well as the support available to Probation staff and how this impacts upon their use of clinical and actuarial approaches to assessing the risk that sex offenders pose. Lastly it has aimed to critically discuss these aims in light of the changes that have taken place due to the Transforming Rehabilitation policies implemented by the coalition Government. The research has been undertaken using qualitative methods of semi structure interviews and quantitative data in the form of questionnaires.

This Doctorate research has identified there is an increasing trend to focusing on actuarial risk assessments, and these being used to determine intervention / allocation of resources. The clinical assessment skills of Probation Officers can be very valuable, and further attention needs to be given in terms of ensuring that these are developed. This research has identified that there was a lack of formal training available, and there was not consistent levels of support available to Probation Officers.

This Doctorate has contributed to academic knowledge, and has provided a frontline perspective on the risk assessment tools used by Probation Officers to assess the risk that sex offenders pose. It provided an investigation of the use of Offender Assessment System and Risk Matrix 2000 as part of the risk assessment process and there has been limited coverage of this previously within academic circles. It was written at a time when the Probation Service was undergoing radical reforms, and provides a critical examination of how these reforms have impacted on the assessment and management of sex offenders.
Date of AwardMar 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorAndy Williams (Supervisor) & Michael Nash (Supervisor)

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