The development and piloting of internet sex offender risk assessment within Cleveland Police

Research Institution / Organisation

Teesside University

In Collaboration With

In partnership with Cleveland Police and Teesside's Evidence Based Policing Clinic

Principal Researcher

Laura Foster-Hick

Level of Research


Project Start Date

November 2017

Research Context

The aim of the proposed research project is to use research surrounding evidence-based policing and offender desistance policing to enable a risk assessment to be used specifically with internet sex offenders (ISO) to be developed and piloted by Cleveland Police.

The Active Risk Management System (ARMS), alongside the RM2000 (Thornton et al, 2003) is currently used within Cleveland Police to assess reoffending. However, there is as of yet no risk assessment tool developed specifically for internet sex offenders (Henry, 2014). The current research therefore aims to adapt the ARMS, making it more suitable for the internet sex offender group.

There has been shown to be many differences between internet sex offenders and contact sex offenders, which supports the need for its own adapted risk assessment. Some research suggests that most internet sex offenders would be considered of low risk, due to no concrete link found between internet and contact, as well as internet offenders being reported to have achieved lower scores on sexualized attitudes towards children, emotional congruence with children and empathy distortions with regard to victims of child abuse. Hence, although they exhibited the kinds of general personality problems exhibited by other sex offenders, they did not support attitudes that explicitly endorse or condone the sexual abuse of children (Bates & Metcalf, 2007). However, the ideology that internet sex offenders are mostly low risk is not evidence-based, and therefore the development of this risk assessment will provide an evidence-based approach towards assessing risk in this offender group.

Research Methodology

The research will be completed in three parts-
The first section of the research is ethnographical. This research will be completed through observational work within Cleveland police, specifically SOMU and POLIT, and will aim to observe their experiences of using the ARMS tool, the discussion of risk assessments and how they feel about using these and the issues surrounding the assessment of ISO’s risk. This will be done by working directly with Cleveland's sex offender management unit and paedophile online investigation team observing officers both completing and inputting risk assessments.

Secondly, the research will discuss the adaptation of the current ARMS assessment so it a) is more appropriate for the ISO group and b) meet the needs of the police using the assessment (these needs will be identified through the first section of the research).

Thirdly, the research will pilot the adapted assessment, through the replication of the methodology completed in the first ARMS pilot evaluation.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

November 2021
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