Probation officers and sex offender registration/notification: Perspectives, uses and experiences

Research Institution / Organisation

University of the West of England

Principal Researcher

Kieran McCartan

Level of Research

Professional / Work-based

Project Start Date

November 2018

Research Context

​The project is an adaptation and development of a previous study which examined the effectiveness of the sex offenders’ register and related notification systems, in terms of their operational utility for law enforcement, from the perspective of police officers and other professionals responsible for the management of sexual offenders. As noted in McCartan et.al, (2018) a lot of the policies and systems discussed in this research are also used by prison and probation staff. By only focusing on police officers, this research inevitably only provided a one-dimensional view of relevant perspectives. There is therefore significant scope for similar research in this area with other professional organisations to examine their professional attitudes and experiences of sex offender management.

In an attempt to fill this knowledge gap, this study is seeking to sample probation officers to elucidate their perspectives and experiences in relation to sex offender management systems. Doing so will allow for further insight into the effectiveness and experiences of those involved in sex offender management, and also allow for comparisons to be made between these different criminal justice professions.

Research Methodology

As outlined above, this project is an adaption of a successful research study undertaken in 2016 involving police officer participants. With a change of focus to probation officers, the research team have adapted the research tools to make them suitable for these participants such as minor altering of question wording and terminology. Ultimately, however, the content and structure of the study has remained as close as possible to its predecessor to promote consistency and allow for comparisons to be made between these groups.

The research itself is mixed methods in approach and consists of two parts:

  • An online questionnaire to be distributed to as many probation officers as possible
  • A series of in-depth semi-structured follow up qualitative interviews

Interim reports and publications

McCartan, K. F., Hoggett, J., & O'Sullivan, J. (2018). Police officer attitudes to the practicalities of the sex offenders register, ViSOR and child sexual abuse discourse scheme in England & Wales. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 24(1), 37-50.

McCartan, K. F., Kemshall, H., & Hoggett, J. (2017). Reframing the sex offender register and disclosure: from monitoring and control to desistence and prevention. In McCartan & Kemshall (ed) Contemporary Sex Offender risk management. Palgrave.

'Sullivan, J., Hoggett, J., Kemshall, H., & McCartan, K. F. (2016) Understanding and implications of the sex offenders register. Irish Probation Journal, 13, 82 -1-4

Date due for completion

September 2019
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