Northern Ireland

The complex processes of treating sex offenders

Image caption The treatment of sex offenders is a complex process

It is important to recognise that there is no one 'type' of person who becomes a sex offender.

Sex offenders come from all walks of life and present with a range of unique psychological deficits.

There are various typologies of sex offenders and it is important that we understand their characteristics in order to design and target the most effective treatment to challenge their behaviours and thinking.

Sex offending is a particularly horrendous crime.

From the international research and literature, we know that if sex offenders engage in treatment programmes they are less likely to re-offend.

Like all the agencies, foremost in our mind is preventing others becoming victims. There are a number of accredited programmes which we deliver to prevent sexual offenders re-offending including:

  • Community Sex Offender Group Work Programme

This programme is aimed at adult male offenders who have been convicted of a sexual offence either against children or adults, or of a non-contact sex offence.

The purpose of the programme is to reduce the likelihood of future sex offending by looking at cycles of offending, challenging cognitive distortions, relationships and attachments styles, and assessing victim empathy and relapse prevention.

  • Internet Sex Offender Treatment Programme

The programme is aimed at adult male offenders who have been convicted of offences such as downloading, possession, making or distributing indecent images of children.

The purpose of the programme is to reduce the likelihood of future sex offending by challenging denial and cognitive distortions.

Offenders will often minimise the gravity of viewing such images via the internet or mobile phone.

This programme is effective in challenging these offenders on the impact of their behaviour and their abusive acts.

  • Adapted Sex Offender Treatment Programme

This programme is designed for adults with a learning disability who have committed sexual offences and have been unable to access traditional group work treatment programmes.

Programmes have a prominent role to play in PBNI's strategy for protecting the public from the effects of crime.

The vast majority of research confirms that group programmes that use the cognitive behavioural approaches and methods are the most successful in order to effect change and to reduce re-offending.

Probation Board Northern Ireland's selection of programmes is evidence-based and founded upon studies with sample sizes in the tens of thousands.

The combination of up-to-date evidence, vigilance in scoping out the latest research and the most effective new programmes, and the continual process of evaluation and re-evaluation to refine and improve our processes, underlines PBNI's dedication to protecting the public.

Further information on the above programmes and other offending behaviour programmes run by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland can be found on our website

BBC NI Home Affairs Correspondent Vincent Kearney is examining the controversial issue of sex offenders and how they are managed. The week-long series will be running from Monday June 13 on BBC Newsline and BBC Radio Ulster.

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