New model for dealing with sex offenders launches in UK

By staff writers
June 16, 2008

A new charity is being launched in London tomorrow to pioneer an award-winning community response to sex offending, in the UK.

Circles UK aims to support the development and effectiveness of Circles of Support and Accountability, (Circles), which have halved rates of reoffending where they have been used abroad.

A 'Circle' consists of about 6 people from the local community, with the sex offender at the core.

This idea is not used as an alternative but in addition to whatever sentence is passed and the offender is still registered on the sex offenders register.

The Canadian model has proved to work with re-conviction rates halving, and those who re-offend committing less serious offences.

Amongst sex offenders there is often a high degree of emotional loneliness and isolation experienced just after they are released. These feelings are likely to make them re-offend. The Circle is designed to address this. It also gives the community a voice, providing accountability for the offender, and reassurance for the community.

The Home Office funded pilots in the UK, the two main ones being run by Quaker Peace and Social Witness and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation.

The launch conference for Circles UK, at Central Hall Westminster in London tomorrow, will bring together more than a hundred people with expertise in dealing with sex offenders, including some from prison, probation and police services; academics and agencies working to promote child safety or working with adults at risk of sexual offending.

Keynote speakers include Maria Eagle MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice; Professor David Wilson, criminologist, writer and broadcaster; Tim Newell, former prison governor and worker for restorative justice; Dr Robin Wilson, forensic psychologist, Clinical Director, Florida Civil Commitment Centre; and Tim Richley, Criminal Justice Adviser, SACRO, Scotland.

Helen Drewery of Quaker Peace and Social Witness, said: “It was a little daunting for the Quakers in 1999 to pioneer this work in the UK. It was a big task for a small faith group. This work shows that the community can respond positively to the challenge of released sex offenders living in our communities.”

There are Quakers among the volunteers and Trustees, but Circles UK is now an independent charity.

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