Sex Offender Register Notification (SORN) was introduced in 1997, with the
original intention of supporting the police in knowing the whereabouts of an
offender. The register was not designed as a punishment or a second sentence
but as an ‘add on’ feature for public and child protection. The number of individuals being
placed on the register has risen annually, and since 2009 there has been a
consistent 7% annual growth.
Registered Sex Offenders (RSO) in England and Wales now stand at 60,294
(MOJ,2019), the majority serve their sentences within the community via
community-based sanctions. Regardless, of the severity of the index offence,
all placed on the register are subject to mandatory notifications, with
management and monitoring being undertaken by community-based teams. Time on
the register varies from 2 years for a caution, to life for individuals who
have received a custodial sentence of 30 months or more.
The effects of SORN on RSOs are such that strong familial and social bonds can
be vital to support an offenders' successful desistance and reintegration.Although these connections can often be detrimental to relatives’ wellbeing,
little is known about how the register and the civil protection orders affect
family life and subsequently impact on the re-integration process.
Amendments in 2012 to the Sexual Offenders Act (2003) stipulated that RSOs who
had previously been subjected to life on the register could apply for removal
after 15 years (8 years for juvenile offenders) given proof they were no longer
a risk to the community. In 2017/18 & 2018/19, 334 and 300, respectively,
RSOs were removed from the register.
However, no official police or government data exists showing how many RSOs
submitted applications to revoke their indefinite notification requirements
although Freedom of Information Requests (FOIR) showed that approximately 1,230
men and women had been de-registered since 2012; approximating to 50% of
requests (BBC, 2017). The FOIRs found success rates in removal applications
(de-registration) varied significantly between police forces.
Little is known about the detail and complexity involved in the deregistration
process for both adult and juvenile RSOs, or the criteria used by police forces
when processing such applications. Additionally, little research exists which
examines how offenders navigate the de-registration process, how they prove
they are no longer a risk, or how the police determine that an offender is no
longer a risk to society.
With more individuals joining SORN than leaving, it is timely to research the
implications of ‘what life is like on the sex offenders register’ for society
and to develop a greater understanding and knowledge of how this may impact on
re-integration and de-registration.
This research focuses on developing an understanding of ‘what life is like on
the sex offenders register’ for the individuals and their relatives.
Additionally, it explores opportunities for the individuals’ re-integration
within the community. An evidence-based understanding of the process of
de-registration of RSOs across police forces will also be gained. A final
element will be to understand the significance of de-registration for RSOs,
their relatives and the wider community.
How may RSOs’ identity affect their reintegration into their communities,
and what is the significance of having their registration requirements removed.
How does an RSOs’ status affect their relatives.
What are the perceptions and experiences MOSOVO Officers (Management of
Sexual Offenders and Violent Offenders) in relation to factors that support or
challenge successful reintegration and de-registration.
How do Chief Superintendents make decisions on applications to revoke
indefinite notification requirements issued under the Sexual Offence Act 2003
and what are their perceptions of the impact of this process on RSOs and their
The research will use qualitative methods to explore the ‘how’ and ‘why’
questions about life on the SORN from the various perspectives of RSOs, their
families, relatives, MOSOVO officers and the police forces within which
jurisdiction they fall. Qualitative methods Will provide a more holistic understanding
of the subject matter than quantitative approaches.
Data will be gathered using a multi-method qualitative strategy employing
questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and document analysis in order to
gain a cross-sectional in-depth understanding of the contemporary situation,
the ‘here and now’ of what life might be like on the SORN.
The analysis will take a pragmatic approach to identify processes, experiences
and practices. Pragmatism also allows a view to be taken regarding what ‘works’
as opposed to what might be considered absolutely and objectively
"true" or "real". An iterative approach will be taken to
analysis, examining previous evidence and existing theories while collecting
new data ‘symbiotically’ to allow for explanations to be satisfactorily reached
throughout the research process. The pragmatic approach is part of an abductive
philosophy which will allow the "researcher to ground a theoretical
understanding of the contexts...[of the subjects’] language, meanings and
perspectives that form their worldview" (Bryman, 2012, p.401); (Charmaz,
2006), that is ‘what life is like on the SORN’.
Data collection strategy:
Data will be gathered using a multi-method qualitative approach. This process
will include questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, and document analysis
and will be conducted with the following groups:
Registered Sex Offenders (RSOs) - Questionnaires and semi-structured interviews
will explore, perceptions, interpretations and experiences in relation to the
effect that the SORN label may have on their self-identity; opportunities for
community re-integration; the importance of deregistration.
Management of Sexual and of Violent Offenders (MOSOVO) Officers -
Questionnaires and semi-structured interviews will explore perceptions and draw
of the experiences of the MOSOVO officers regarding factors that can support or
challenge successful re-integration and de-registration.
Document Analysis - Examining ‘Applications to revoke indefinite notification
requirements issued under the Sexual Offence Act 2003’ - to identify any common
themes and factors that affect the decision-making process to revoke indefinite
Chief Superintendents - Semi-structured interviews will be conducted to examine
perceptions and experience, impacts and factors regarding the process of:
making decisions to revoke indefinite notification requirements issued under
the Sexual Offence Act and the impact of these decisions.
Sample size, inclusion and exclusion criteria:
The research will recruit 60 participants, or until the point at which
theoretical saturation has been achieved, meaning there is no new information
emerging from interviews that is likely to advocate the emergence of additional
theory (Strauss and Cobin, 1998). To be eligible for voluntary inclusion,
participants must all be adults (over 18).
The following sample size, inclusion
and exclusion criteria will be applied when recruiting participants:
0 Relatives of RSOs
20 MOSOVO officers
10 Chief Superintendents
(or higher rank police personnel)
Relative of RSO
MOSOVO officer with an RSO caseload
Chief Superintendent or higher rank police personnel (the police personnel who is responsible within their force for making decisions to revoke SORN policies issues under the Sexual Offences Act 2003).
RSO family members under 18-years of age
Where there are safeguarding issues with RSOs