I think it's true to say that most officers wake up in the middle of the night at some point in their career and fret that one of their charges might have killed or raped someone. It didn't used to be like this of course. When I started and something horrific happened, you could expect nothing but concern and sympathy from both colleagues and management.
Not any more though. It may not be said openly, but just the uttering of the dreaded phrase Serious Further Offence Enquiry will bring with it the starting assumption that you should have known. You should have supervised better. It's basically your fault.
This is utter nonsense of course because none of us has a crystal ball, we do not supervise clients 24/7 and each person has free will and must ultimately be held responsible for their actions. It's not and never can be our fault that someone commits a crime, but of course there's nowadays the small matter of OASys.
Rest-assured that this vast, unwieldy, pain-in-the-arse, computerised assessment tool will be locked, printed out and pored over by management for some evidence of omission or lack of timeliness in completion. The suspicion is that any enquiry won't really be about serious matters of judgement, it will mostly be about bloody bureaucracy.
Every time I read of a case like that of Opemipo Jaji, an 18 year-old just convicted at the Old Bailey of raping an 11 year-old girl whilst on probation, my thoughts turn to the poor officer as well as the traumatised victim. The press don't see it like this of course because as a society we've come to believe that someone, somewhere must be to blame, in addition to the perpetrator.
Now I've got no problem at all in the concept of a proper examination of everything that went on prior to this tragic event, basically so that we can all learn lessons. Why was it that this young man was not made subject to Sex Offender Registration in respect of an earlier sexual offence? Were adequate reports prepared by the Youth Offending Team when they had responsibility? There were other offences involving indecent images of children, but again no registration requirement.
I notice that the police have been quite vocal in raising the issue of why this young man was not partaking in any Sex Offender Treatment Programmes, either as part of an earlier Detention and Training Order or the later probation-supervised Community Order? A good question, but one that needs to be addressed towards the court decisions. If SOTP is not specified as a condition of any sentence, it places any supervising officer in a difficult position. Possibly such a condition wasn't requested? Possibly there were no full Pre Sentence Reports prepared? Possibly the court deviated from any recommendations made?
All these and many other issues will hopefully be the legitimate concerns of the Enquiries just announced. I'm pleased that the judge has very sensibly decided to request full Pre Sentence and Psychiatric Reports before passing what could well be a Discretionary Life Sentence.
Finally, a cautionary word for all intending bidders for our work. I don't know what risk level this young man was at the time he committed this horrific offence, but risk assessment is not a science, despite the deliberately-fostered implication that OASys makes it so. This guy seems to have been reporting as required, was actively engaged in training and may not have been displaying any current worrying behaviours.
This nightmare scenario could be coming your way soon guys and you will need all the public relations news management skills you can muster in order to avoid the public opprobrium that will inevitably arise.
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