Crime in the Mind

On Friday 17th November 2017, Professor Birgit Völlm hosted a forensic psychiatry research seminar “Interventions for Sex Offenders post-SOTP” at the Institute of Mental Health. The seminar was organised by the charity Crime in Mind and chaired by Professor Pamela Taylor. Professor John Gunn introduced the aims and objectives of Crime in Mind outlining the need for investment in research in forensic psychiatry. Crime in Mind aims to fundraise and commission relevant studies and put the scientific study of mentally disordered offenders on to a much firmer financial and political base. For further information see

Speakers included a range of experts talking about a range of interventions fo sex offenders. Professor Conor Duggan reflected on the evidence base for the treatment for sex offenders referring to a recent report on the prison based Core Sex Offender Treatment Programme (SOTP) which failed to provide evidence of therapeutic effect and showed that in some outcomes treated sex offenders fair worse than untreated controls. Professor Duggan called for further analysis to be done on identifying who is likely or not to benefit from treatment. Fiona Williams and Rosie Travers from evaluation team of the SOTP outlined the design factors of the replacement approaches, notably the Horizon (for medium risk offenders) and Kaizen (for high risk, high need, high priority offenders) programmes.

Professor Belinda Winder and Dr Kerensa Hocken from HMP Whatton outlined the UK Prevention Project. The project, similar to the German Dunkelfeld project, provides a signposting, support and treatment service for individuals who are distressed about unhealthy sexual thoughts and feelings, and are concerned that they will sexually offend but are outside of the Criminal Justice System.

Professor Birgit Völlm described the development of Circles of Support and Accountability. Here the sex offender, known as the core member, is supported by a group of volunteers from the local community and helped to reintegrate into society. Professor Völlm presented findings on the characteristics of core members in England and Wales and a review of the evidence base.

Dr Jackie Craissati described her work in London on the Challenge Project which supports sex offenders with personality disorder. She found that alcohol use was more problematic than drug use in people who failed (i.e. were charged, convicted or recalled) and that housing difficulties are often a trigger point.

Professor Don Grubin outlined the use of pharmacological approaches to sexual offending such as the use of anti-androgens and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs have fewer side effects than anti-androgens which require close monitoring. Professor Grubin argued that medication is not a substitute for psychological treatment but can produce improvements which help an offender participate in other treatment programmes.


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