Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A Call to Arms 2

Following on from the first post on this subject, I notice there has been an interesting exchange on the FOI website which sheds a bit more light on things:-

It seems like the Active Risk Management System (ARMS) for dynamic assessment of sex offenders is finally coming into use from mid-2015

Evaluation of the pilot project can be found at 


The precursor of ARMS called Stable and Acute was piloted in Scotland and its evaluation provides some useful information

while some rather vague information can be found at

This lists the acute dynamic risk factors (eg alcohol use, disengagement) and stable dynamic risk (eg attitudes to sex) which were assessed using this tool. 

It would seem from this that ARMS would be used by Probation (NOMS) - that is for people on license just out of prison - not for the majority of MAPPA offenders managed by the police in the long term. (this may change in future but unlikely with austerity, given the greater pressures of public/child protection services (police, local authorities). Given this pressure on public protection using ARMS has got to be better than the just using RM2000 which only looks at static (past) factors - better targeting of resources etc.

Given that OASys (offender assessment system used by prisons and probation is cursed as cumbersome to use and the pilot evaluation also criticised ARMS for this - surely technology could play a role here - this might be a problem. Which is why it is worrying that this FoI request was denied.

Dear Xxxxx - thank you for your annotation comments. I made a similar request to Warwickshire Police, as they had some involvement with ARMS, but they also refused to provide any information.

My final comment, which has not been responded to read: However, I'm disappointed you are unwilling to disclose the information requested.

The above document was informative, and both RM 2000 and SARN risk assessments mentioned are widely available.
It would seem ARMS is a combination of both?

Please confirm whether registered sex offenders are legally mandated to engage with ARMS? (and if relevant, which statutory instrument makes this a legal obligation?)

Do registered sex offenders benefit from the protection of ECHR? Specifically Article 8 - Right to respect for private and family life.

It is worrying to read, one of the protective factors (5) now omitted from the risk assessment was, citizenship/giving something back. I understand probation and police seemingly attempt to prevent RSO's from engaging in community activity. If not mandated by restrictions of their licence, community order, SOPO etc. Then formal disclosure to third parties effectively prevent the RSO from the opportunity to rejoin society, the imposed isolation can have a negative impact on wellbeing.

There are eight risk factors and four protective factors, which suggests an RSO has little or no chance of demonstrating rehabilitation and redemption, when retribution seems to be the focus.

My brother, before he killed himself, felt hounded by the intrusive nature of quarterly home visits. The collateral damage of viewing indecent images of children led to him losing his girlfriend, home, job, friends and ultimately his life.

If the CJS is genuinely trying to ensure sex offender desist, and I understand it is a matter of control not cure. Surely an open honest approach, seeking to ensure a person's need are met legitimately, rather than psychological games are required?

Xxxxx, to try and answer your questions as best we can from information available...

I have not been able to find out what the protective factors are in ARMS - I suspect that the last two ('being busy' and 'giving something back') may have been merged as they are similar, but this is just a guess. ARMS (Active Risk Management System) is not a combination of RM2000 and SARN - it does not have the actuarial basis of RM2000 [that is basing risk on the outcomes of a similar group of offenders]; it might be thought of more as 'SARN lite'.

I have not found any Ministry of Justice or Home Office statement announcing the introduction of ARMS - the only reference was the working with offenders web site (which I linked to in my previous annotation). This in itself seems odd - you would have thought the Home Office would like to promote anything which looks like it is doing something about sexual offenders. I suspect that the upheaval in Probation Services (as part of 'Transforming Rehabilitation') and cuts to services may mean that ARMS is only being rolled out gradually or for a limited group of offenders - but again this is just a guess.

I think the question of offenders being 'legally mandated to engage' with ARMS is irrelevant - if they don't engage they will probably be regarded as a higher risk - as they would score highly on the ARMS risk factors of 'negative orientation to rules' and 'hostile orientation to others'. 

Everybody has the protection of ECHR (and the Human Rights Act) through virtue of being human! Although what this means in practice in relation to police monitor of sex offenders is unclear.

Certainly the prohibition on activities contained in SOPOs (now SHPO - Sexual Harm Prevention Orders) and licence conditions can limit the possibilities for engagement in the community and hence rehabilitation. It is a difficult balance - one that each offender seemingly has to navigate on his own. I am very sorry to hear of your brother's death and I agree that meeting a persons needs for autonomy, intimacy etc legitimately is the best way to prevent re-offending and further victims.

Dear Xxxxx 
I shall read through your comments again, and respond separately. The pilot evaluation listed the following:

There were 13 risk and protective factors within the ARMS framework: 

1. Opportunity to offend
2. Offence related sexual interests
3. Sexual pre-occupation
4. Emotional congruence (against children only)
5. Hostile orientation to others
6. Poor self management
7. Negative orientation to rules
8. Anti-social influences. 

1. Pro-social network
2. A commitment to desist
3. An intimate relationship
4. Employment / being busy
5. Citizenship / giving something back (omitted)

At my brothers inquest, the police repeatedly stated they would/could not take any responsibility for my brothers mental wellbeing. It was even inferred that I was manipulated by him, and weak minded to believe all my brother told me.

Thank you again for your helpful comments.
Kind regards - Xxxx


  1. The pilot was inconclusive and raised as many questions as answers, so the roll out seems premature, but par for the course for NOMS. The validity of ARMS is weak as there was wide variance in ratings. The military acronym ARMS means only an enemy fits into the frame and I expect that risk factors will therefore be given greater weight than protective factors. More paperwork, but no greater insight.

    1. But dearest Netnipper, did you not read the lengthy defense of ARMS in response to the first ARMS blog - the two posts were dated 24 Sept? Any criticism is evidently wrong, misguided, mischievous & downright naughty.

  2. I was asked to attend a meeting with one of my cases, police officer having been trained to apply ARMs was uncomfortable approaching some of the questions which needed to be asked. In the introduction to my client police protection officer suggested it was aa assessment tool to help them identify high risk so's, so that the police could reduce their caseloads and pass low and medium cases to civilian staff, therefore, saving money! On that basis, my client didn't feel well disposed to talking about the frequency of his masturbatory activity!

  3. Can anyone confirm there is a FIVE HOUR EXAM at the end of ARMS training? I am due to attend and quite frankly feel that on top of everything else we have to deal with, it is too bloody much.

    1. It is true that the afternoon of the final ( second day ) is set aside for the 'test'. The test, which is pass or fail, is actually the completion of an actual ARMS assessment, It does take a while to complete, but that depends on how quickly one forms the assessment/s and writes it up.
      In day to day practice it is going to be a whole chunk of work on top of what is already completed.

  4. Nigel Allcoat, a Leicester Magistrate, has been suspended and is being investigated for attempting to pay £35 towards the Grayling court charge on behalf of an Asylum Seeker who has no means of obtaining money. He has subsequently resigned his post as a Magistrate. Source: BBC East Midlands today.

    1. A senior magistrate who pulled £40 from his own shirt pocket to pay the court fine for a destitute asylum seeker has resigned his position, after being suspended by authorities for the good deed.

      Professional organist Nigel Allcoat, a magistrate for 15 years, said he was despairing at the mounting fines and costs being accrued by an asylum seeker at Leicester magistrates court.

      “As a magistrate, my job is to prevent more crime, but now the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) would have me sent to traitor’s gate,” he said. “But it is something I take very seriously.”

      The 65-year-old magistrate said the young man in his 20s had appeared before him in early August having defaulted on his fine, and had to also pay £180 in mandatory court charges, under legislation introduced late in the last parliament by the former justice secretary, Chris Grayling.

      Allcoat said he had been deeply affected by images of refugees facing riot police in Hungary. “These people have travelled for hundreds of miles to reach us, I wanted to show what British justice meant, to show him the character of this country is actually compassionate.”

      The man had £35 on a top-up card to use in specified shops, and was not allowed to take any form of work. A £60 victim surcharge he had owed in June had already been paid by a sympathetic burger stall owner who fed the young man occasionally when he was destitute, Allcoat recalled.

      “What can someone do in that situation, when you tell them they need to find £180 or they will go to prison, but they cannot work?” Allcoat told the Guardian. “They could steal the money? Commit another crime? That would cost the state even more money to have him put in prison. It costs more to keep someone in prison than to send a boy to Eton.”

      Allcoat, a former visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London, said he felt the court was at an impasse, where they could only impose a fine which would make criminal activity more likely.

      “We were looking at the computer system that was pulling up this man again for non-payment. It was spontaneous, but I had £40 in my shirt pocket and thought: ‘What if I chipped in? If a burger stall owner can?’ And I thought it would just feed the computer,” he recalled.

      “The lady standing next to me also wanted to pay, though she had left her handbag in the retirement room.”

      He said he had no knowledge of the asylum seeker’s personal story or country of origin. “We are simply told he had defaulted on a fine. I don’t know where he was from.”

      Allcoat was suspended pending an inquiry by the lord chancellor’s advisory committee, but resigned so he could speak freely on the issue. He said he misses being a magistrate.

      “My work as a musician is very cerebral and to work in the community and give something back was very important,” he said, adding that colleagues had been in tears about his departure. “I’ve had calls, emails, I’ve been taken out for dinner, everyone has been so effusive.”

  5. Prison based POs aren't invited to be trained on ARMS

    1. It wouldn't be directly applicable to the day to day job, but it would be reckless not to ensure that it is understood by everyone. It would certainly help for people ( prisoners ) to understand what this is and what it will involve , before they are released.

  6. It might be best if people either completed the ARMS training or read the associated docs,before the practice of only a small number of people ever reading policies or attending training to learn, with the rest acting on word of mouth in mindless and often misguided oblivion becomes apparent to the rest of the world !!!!

    1. Commes ca? Que? Uh? Please elaborate...

  7. ARMS is another pointless risk assessment tool with a silly name. We'll be forced to use it for a few years and then some smart arse will decide it's no longer accurate, too cumbersome and nothing more than another way to refuse access to interventions because "your scores don't add up"!

    Probation should be about rehabilitation and supporting change, not "risk management" and "public protection". We are not police officers and I cringe at the thought of having to complete silly assessments and interviews in conjunction with them (if that's what expected?). For the record, they can keep Visor access too because that database is beyond shite. Maybe bin it all alongside RSR, CAS, RM2000 and all the other silly little "assessments".

    Every justice agency and his dog now has a slice of 'offender management', and the rest the MoJ & NOMS just hand over to the prison service or shoddy private companies. I wish for once our probation managers/directors, with their permanently scuffed knees from all that bowing to NOMS, would act to preserve Probation Officer work and responsibility as just that.

  8. I am a Prison based PO and I have been invited to book place on ARMS course

    1. You won't get a place, they are bein withdrawn

  9. By e-mail:-

    I heard a rumour recently that Cumbria & Lancs CRC are to lose their second CEO within a year - after the departure of 'King Kev' on the eve of Sodexo taking the reins, his successor Penny Barker has apparently announced she's off as well.

  10. Having recently completed the training I am unsure that ARMS is going to be useful for probation. It seems to me to be another framework by which we might decide what the carcinogenic and rehabilitative needs that existing good practice would have defined anyway. We have OASys, RM2000, TNA, SARN and clinical supervision already. Why then do we need ARMS. I am also deeply concerned that there is no provision for gatekeeping or quality assurance of assessments. If I were being cynical I might think it's being brought in to replace OASys for SO's but as it stands it just duplicates work that should be done in a good quality assessment. This will lead to a lot of laborious cutting and pasting. Not a good use of time leaving even less to spend talking to offenders. Oh and before I forget the case formulation used in the training is a joke that requires a massive suspension of disbelief. The case discloses behaviour that would result in immediate recall in the first ten minutes of the video. The copper doing the interview tells him that he'll discuss the issue again with him the following day. If the designers can't even come up with a realistic scenario for our training it's difficult to trust anything else they say.

    1. Low rm2000 SOs routinely don't have treatment, Sarn or tna. If ARMS offers a way of formulating a risk assessment on which to hang a rotl decision then it has value.

    2. Despite being well intentioned ARMS is fatally flawed, and this will be shown up when it is evaluated. Firstly it does not use static information at all, and this is proven to be more reliable than clinical assessment of dynamic risk factors. A more reliable system should use static and dynamic in the form of stable and acute factors. Secondly, the inter-rater reliability will be very low - this is the evaluation of whether assessors will come to the same conclusions or not.
      There is also a third factor to consider which perhaps links to the second point about reliability of assessment. It is not so much that police officers don't have the skill to undertake an assessment, but more that the RSOs themselves will naturally feel uncomfortable and interrogated by the assessment interviews - they are used to police policing and investigating and are suspicious as to why they would need to assess them for anything else other than whether they have returned to offending.

  11. I had my arms interrogation today, I was convicted of a historic rape from 1989. No other offences of that nature before or after. I was refused my wife to sit in on the interrogation as an appropriate adult. It ended with me having to phone my daughter in law to get the dates of birth of all my grandchildren. WTF