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2.4.1 Identified Offenders and Others who May Pose a Threat to Children

NOTE

Legal advice must be sought as necessary before information-sharing.

RELATED GUIDANCE

Guidance on Offences Against Children Procedure

RELATED CHAPTERS

See also Information Sharing and Confidentiality


Contents

  1. Recognition
  2. Response
  3. Disclosure of Information by Local Authority
  4. Risk Assessment
  5. Disclosure Process


1. Recognition

Indicators of people who may pose a risk to children include:

  • Those offenders found guilty of an offence under Schedule One of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933  - see the Guidance on Offenses Against Children;
  • Individuals known to have been cautioned / warned / reprimanded in relation to an offence against children;
  • Individuals against whom there is a previous finding in civil proceedings e.g. Sex Offender Order or care proceedings;
  • Those about whom there has been a previous Section 47 Enquiry which came to the conclusion that there had been abuse;
  • An individual who has admitted past abuse of a child;
  • Others whose past or present behaviour gives rise to a reason to suspect that a child may be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm e.g. a history of domestic abuse and other serious assaults;
  • Offenders against adults who are notified to the local authority, because the prison or Probation Services are concerned about the possible risk to children;
  • Offenders who come to the attention of the MAPPA (see Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) Procedure).


2. Response

On notification or discovery of a person who may pose a risk to children, Local Authority Children’s Services / Children’s Social Care must treat this information as a Child Protection referral (see Child Protection (Section 47) Enquiries Procedure).

A Section 47 Enquiry must be instigated if the person is living in a household with children, has contact with children or poses a risk to children in the area.

Checks (including the prison service which may hold important information) must be undertaken to establish:

  • Any children believed to have been abused by the individual in the past;
  • Other children who are believed to have been in contact with the individual in the past and may therefore have been at risk;
  • Children with whom the individual is currently in contact in a family or work / voluntary setting;
  • Children (or groups of children) with whom the individual may seek contact, such as children attending a school located near the home of an individual known to target such children.

All assessments of risk must consider the:

  • Needs of the children affected;
  • Level and pattern of abusing / offending, including that thought to have occurred but which has not led to a criminal conviction;
  • Level of protection likely to be provided by other significant adults;
  • Ability of the children to protect themselves.

A Child Protection Conference must be convened if the threshold criteria are met (see Child Protection (Section 47) Enquiries Procedure, Outcome of the Section 47 Enquiry) and if any child/ren require continuing protection, therapeutic intervention or family support services.


3. Disclosure of Information by Local Authority

This procedure applies when disclosure to third parties of an offender / suspected offender’s previous history is being considered.

Subject to the conditions set out in section 3, the general presumption is that information should not normally be disclosed, except if one of the following applies:

  • Consent from the suspected offender / alleged offender / offender;
  • Statutory requirements or other duty;
  • Duty to the public.

Legal advice must be sought if doubt exists.

The absence of a conviction for child abuse in a criminal court does not prevent a local authority from informing parents or carers of the potential risk posed by someone who is honestly believed on reasonable grounds to have abused other children.

Generally the risk assessment for disclosure of information on convicted abusers will be led by the Police and Probation (see Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) Procedure), but Local Authority Children’s Services may need to consider the risk also of those alleged abusers who:

  • Have been charged with an offence and the outcome is pending;
  • Were not prosecuted because the required standard of proof did not allow for a criminal case to be pursued;
  • Were not prosecuted but the case ‘left on file’;
  • Were acquitted.

In view of the possibility of legal challenge by the individual concerned or a future victim, all agencies must, in addition to seeking any legal advice required maintain a written audit trail of events, actions, discussions, decisions and the reasons for them.


4. Risk Assessment

Prior to any decision by Local Authority Children’s Services to disclose information, a risk assessment must be undertaken, in order to establish what risks the person poses to children in the prevailing circumstances and the risks associated with disclosure.

The risk assessment and management of alleged / suspected offenders will usually be through MAPPA. Local Authority Children’s Services has a particular role to play when an individual is setting up home with a new partner who has children.

The risk assessment must consider both enduring and changeable factors and take account of:

  • Nature and pattern of previous offending;
  • Compliance with previous sentences or court orders;
  • Proximity of potential victims;
  • Probability that a further offence will be committed;
  • The harm such behaviour will cause;
  • Any behaviour indicating likelihood that s/he will re-offend;
  • Any expert opinion e.g. psychiatric;
  • Any other relevant information e.g. specific vulnerability of child/ren.

The risk assessment must also consider the following risks:

  • Displacing or increasing offending;
  • Pushing an offender ‘underground’;
  • Potential consequences to the offender and her/his family;
  • Potential consequences in the context of law and order;
  • Any other operational considerations.

When possible, the individual should be consulted to provide information to assist the risk assessment.

The individual should be given the opportunity to challenge the information on which the decision to disclose is being made, and the response considered as part of the risk assessment.

The Safeguarding Policy and Performance Manager (Kent) / Operational Safeguarding Lead (Medway) and legal department must be consulted regarding the possibility of disclosure and the decision taken by the District Manager (Kent) / Service Manager (Medway), in consultation with Police and Probation at a strategy meeting.

If the Police do not support any planned disclosure based on the potential risk to an identified child, further legal advice must be taken.


5. Disclosure Process

Each decision to disclose must be justified on the likelihood of harm which non-disclosure might otherwise cause and the pressing need for such a disclosure.

Consideration must be given to other, less intrusive methods that might achieve any required objectives:

  • If the offender is supervised by Probation, the use of its powers may assist or obviate the need for disclosure;
  • Consent to disclosure should be sought from the individual in question (unless this increases the risk to any child);
  • Consideration should be given to allowing the individual to make the disclosure themselves, which may be sufficient to achieve the objective e.g. promise to move to less provocative surroundings (unless this increases the risk to any child).

Where a decision to disclose is agreed, the risk management process must consider at a Strategy Discussion:

  • Nature of the information to be disclosed;
  • Extent of its distribution;
  • Time scales;
  • Who will disclose the information and how;
  • Advice and guidance to be given to the recipients regarding the use they are to make of the information;
  • Identification of a contact person identified to provide further advice and guidance to the recipient.

Following disclosure, the social worker, police or probation officer must note:

  • How seriously the child / carer took the information;
  • The carer’s ability and plans to protect the child;
  • The carer’s immediate plans for protection.

End