From a lack of engagement and mistrust to partnership? Public attitudes to the disclosure of sex offender information
McCartan, K. (2013) From a lack of engagement and mistrust to partnership? Public attitudes to the disclosure of sex offender information. International Journal of Police Science and Management,, 13 (3). pp. 219-236. Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/22246
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This paper discusses public attitudes to the current limited disclosure of sex offender scheme in the UK. The study focuses on two ‘countries’ of the UK (ie, Northern Ireland and Wales) where, up until now, no direct research has been done with the public on their attitudes to the sex offender disclosure scheme. This study is based upon six socially representative local focus groups (members of the public; three in each locale) with a total of 35 members of the public between them. The focus groups are semi-structured in nature and were interpreted through qualitative (thematic) content analysis. Results indicate that the public believed that, in principle, they had a right to have access to information regarding sex offenders living in their communities, but when the practicalities of this were discussed, the participants became divided on the validity of disclosure. In respect to the limited disclosure scheme, the participants did not feel that it went far enough, it was too restrictive, they were unhappy with the structure of it (especially the background checks and the confidentiality agreement) and that they did not trust the government (ie, the police) to run it appropriately. Ultimately, the participants thought that communities needed to be more involved in the management of sex offenders within them, but they were conflicted as to whether communities could handle this role. The results of this study reflects and builds upon the English and Scottish pilots, suggesting that more work needs to be done on the administration of the disclosure process.