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New paraphilia scale for sexual offences

New HMPPS scale of general paraphilia to be used with men convicted of sexual offences found to be a reliable predictor.

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New rating scale

On Friday (7 May 2021), HMPPS published a new research report aimed to develop and validate a scale of general paraphilia to be used with men convicted of sexual offences. The initial scale was developed from examination of the wider literature, and was refined via factor analytical techniques and other validation methods. The final scale had good predictive validity and has the potential to aid future programme evaluations by ensuring groups can be matched on markers of general paraphilia.

Definition of paraphilia

A paraphilia can be a defined as persistent, intense, and atypical sexual arousal pattern. Some paraphilia result in a crime if acted on, for example acting on persistent arousal to pre-pubescent children (paedophilia). Other paraphilia can be satiated with consenting partners (e.g. sexual masochism). Accurate assessment of paraphilia is essential in order to support sentence planning for men convicted of sexual offences, to support robust evaluation and to develop our understanding of how the organisation responds to the causes and influences of sexual offending.

The study

This study aimed to develop and validate a rating scale of general paraphilia, which could be easily scored from routine or easily accessible background and offence details (predominantly OASys records). The term ‘general paraphilia’ is used to refer to the presence of one or more distinct atypical sexual interests, rather than assuming or attempting to measure a single underlying factor for different paraphilia. A 16-item scale (Scale of General Paraphilia; SGP) was produced after examination of the literature to identify factors associated with the presence of general paraphilia.

The 16 items are:

  1. Intrafamilial victim
  2. More than one victim
  3. Multiple sexual offences against victim(s)
  4. Male child victim
  5. Unrelated victim
  6. Unrelated child victim
  7. Stranger victim
  8. Non-contact sex offence
  9. Possession of indecent images of children?
  10. Extreme/sadistic violence
  11. Use of weapon
  12. Persistence after punishment
  13. Victim under 12 years
  14. Victim 13-15 years
  15. Victim 16+
  16. Number of convictions for sexual offences

This initial scale was further refined with the use of exploratory factor analytical techniques with a sample of 188 men who had all been convicted of at least one sexual offence, and who were serving a prison sentence.

The scale was further validated with the use of a range of statistical analyses. The SGP significantly correlated with scores on the sexual interests domain of a structured professional judgement tool, which itself has good predictive validity. 

Findings

The researchers (Helen Wakeling, Jamie Walton, Sinead Bloomfield, Keely Wilkinson, Nicola Mathie & Adam Carter) concluded that the research was successful in producing a valid and reliable scale for general paraphilia.

The “reasonably accurate assessment of general paraphilia” can be used for research and evaluation purposes. The researchers are keen to emphasises that the SGP has not been designed and should not be used as a diagnostic measure of paraphilia. Rather, it is designed to be used as a tool which can broadly identify those who are more likely to have one or more offence-related paraphilia

A key advantage of the SGP is that it does not rely on self-report; rather, it uses factual information about an individual’s proven offence and recorded life history.

Although recorded information also has its limitations, the researchers argue (and I agree) it is more reliable than self-report, as it does not suffer from potential issues of individuals’ under-reporting or possessing a lack of insight into paraphilia.

Since this scale has been produced using a fairly small cohort, the researchers recommend that it needs testing on a much larger scale before becoming a mainstream tool.

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One Response

  1. Article New Paraphilia Scale For Sexual Offences – A response
    Author : John. Date : 10th May 2021
    Summary of article
    The 16-item scale (Scale of General Paraphilia; SGP) is, I would argue, largely, wrong.
    Many of these items are not “identify factors associated with the presence of general paraphilia.”

    Glossary : Terms used in this article
    The “series of caused events”
    Is a description of how one crime leads to another and is the direct cause of the occurrence of the next crime. These series of caused events are, typically, manifest by an escalating series of crimes. That is, voyeurism, then a non-contact offence, then a contact offence without violence and, finally a contact offence with violence resulting sometimes in murder. Each event caused by the previous one. This phenomenon is the same as “serial killer “ crime sprees.

    “A Crime incident”
    A crime incident is a series of criminal (also described as abnormal) acts that take place at one occurrence. An occurrence is described as one period of time. It is not one moment in time. That is, the period of time can be many years in duration. Each act within that period is connected, in the mind of the offender. That is, one act gives rise to another later on in time.
    There can be multiple occurrences and some can overlap. The defining factor, here, is how the acts are connected. Legal definitions and descriptions of a crime, i.e. a case, a prosecution, etc., are built on the premise that there is a one-to-one relationship between one act of crime and one prosecution. That is, the legal prosecutorial industry does not take into account what the offender thought he was doing at the time of committing crimes. An offender can think of 10 acts of criminality as only one. That is the offender is guilty of committing only one crime and not being aware of committing the others. This gives rise to “the mental capacity” legal argument which says the offender is not guilty of those other 9 crimes. See, also, “series of caused events” definition above.

    The 16 items are:

    1. Intrafamilial victim
    2. More than one victim
    3. Multiple sexual offences against victim(s)
    4. Male child victim
    5. Unrelated victim
    6. Unrelated child victim
    7. Stranger victim
    8. Non-contact sex offence
    9. Possession of indecent images of children?
    10. Extreme/sadistic violence
    11. Use of weapon
    12. Persistence after punishment
    13. Victim under 12 years
    14. Victim 13-15 years
    15. Victim 16+
    16. Number of convictions for sexual offences

    Response

    Why does “sexualised violence” have a far lower SGP Mean score than the other two Treatment needs?
    Violence is one type of serious crime and sex offending is another. But to have the presence of both in ones crime history is at least doubly serious. So, it , definitely, can’t be lower than “Sexual preference for children” and “Other paraphilias”.

    The 16-item scale (Scale of General Paraphilia; SGP) is, I would argue, largely, wrong.
    In my view, many of these items are not “identify factors associated with the presence of general paraphilia.”
    I will take each item and explain :
    3. Multiple sexual offences against victim(s)
    It is extremely rare for the police to submit prosecutions for only one offence. Perhaps less than 1% of court cases have only one sexual offence being prosecuted. That is, this figure is artificial and based on case law, not motivation or psychology of the offender.
    Think of it this way : One assault can involve many crimes being committed yet it was only the one crime the offender was, in their mind, committing – not the dozen or so that the police, eventually, decide to prosecute on.

    4. Male child victim.
    If a female offends against a child that is not substantially a different crime to that of a male offending against a female. To more accurately capture the differences in gender factors this “identity-factor” should be four factors not one factor. That is:
    • Male offending against a male
    • Male offending against a female
    • Female offending against male
    • Female offending against a female.

    5. Unrelated victim.
    What is the difference between this and item 7 Stranger victim? Nothing, as far as I can see. That is, one of these items is superfluous. There need to be an item for “Known to the offender(not related)”. That is, there should be, three items : “Known to the offender(not related)”, “Related to the offender”, “Not known to the offender (i.e. a stranger victim)”. Using the logic of the list : this would then give rise to another three items needing to be generated (or perhaps not. See point immediately below*) :
    “Child victim known to the offender”,
    “Child related to the offender”,
    “Child not known to the offender (i.e. stranger victim)”.

    *The fact that the victim is a child or not is already captured in items 13 and 14 so to doubly apply this factor will give an overly high and, thus, incorrect, risk score.

    8. Non-contact sex offence.
    When a non-contact sex offence happens at the same occurrence (time) of a contact sex offence it raises the question : should the non-contact offence be counted? Remember what this identify- factor list is for : we are trying to understand the motivation (the mind), of the offender, to accurately predict their future propensity to commit sex-offences again. For many, if not most, of the cases, the offender will not have made any decision to carry out a contact crime versus a non-contact crime. One event was the cause of another. To accurately consider a “non-contact sex offence” item, as an identity factor, one needs to distinguish whether it was one act in a series of caused events. This question applies, also, to other crime incidents, not just sex offence based crime incidents.

    Consider how an offender thinks during a crime : if the offender knows they are going to prison, for a long time (they have already committed a serious crime against the victim who is still in the presence of or accessible to the offender), they often do believe they have nothing to live for. This belief leads, for many to suicidal and/or panicked thoughts. That is, they are thinking of death. Their death. In the context of currently committing a crime, when an offender is thinking of their death and is confronted with the reality of what they have done, in front of them, they will believe that their death is of a more serious immediate concern than the suffering the victim is currently undergoing. On that basis, the offender has convinced themselves that they may as well carry on committing more crimes for their furthered enjoyment. They have, after all, “nothing to live for”.
    In fact, this is one argument against there being severe punishments for crimes committed. The UK’s sentencing tariffs are some of the highest in the world. Many countries have concluded high sentencing tariffs make offenders behave suicidally (or have similar irrational responses), at the time of the crime, as explained above, and leads to more crime! The current version of the SARN Treatment Needs Analysis tool, including the General Paraphilia Score metric, contributes to this, high-tariff, UK punishment, regime. That is, it is part of the problem – not the solution. A new version taking into account the “series of caused events” factor would reduce this to some extent. Ask many offenders and they will be scathing about the SARN analysis tool and its risk factor predicting abilities. That is, those who committed these crimes – the ones who we are trying to second guess their behaviour of – are telling the authorities that the risk scoring tools are wrong; the risk assessments are wrong To ignore that fact is to want to punish were punishment is not due. That is, high risk scores, it seems, is being applied out of malicious attempts to further punish – not accurately assess risk. The most simple and effective way to assess risk to is to get the trust of the offender and ask them. It’s not rocket science, at all. Indeed, its not even advanced statistics or even basic statistics! Just, plain common sense. The time it takes to find out the facts surrounding the offender’s crimes and complete the various risk assessing is longer than it would be to gain the trust of the offender – and ask for their opinion of them committing sex offences, again. Reading this article takes longer.

    On another point, the degree of violence is a more accurate risk assessing factor. This, thus, would mean replacing the following three items for one single “Degree of violence” item.
    8. Non-contact sex offence
    10. Extreme/sadistic violence
    11. Use of weapon

    The degree of violence measure would need to be carefully calibrated to include duration, number of contacts (strikes from a weapon, fist etc), type of strike, depth of strike, the suffering of the victim and so on. A scale of 1 to 10 might be a more practical (and easier) method.

    12. Persistence after punishment
    The criticism of this item is the same as for the “series of caused events” point made for the non-contact sex offence item, above. Many times, in the mind of the offender, the occurrence of the crime has not finished after the punishment was issued. The punishment is and was not relevant to the offender. They are of the belief that their welfare is more important to that of the victim. That is, they feel they are about to die – not the victim. It is this that needs to be recorded – not “persistence” per se.

    16.Number of convictions for sexual offences
    Again, this “ball park”, generalised item is not sufficiently accurate (robust) to be used as an identity-factor. The number of convictions is the result of what others decide within the prosecutorial authorities (PPS, Police, MoJ, Probation,HMPPS ) – not the psychology, motivation or any decisions made by the offender. One offender can be prosecuted (and convicted) for 12 offences when another committing the same gets prosecuted (and convicted) for less offences, despite both offenders being of the same propensity (risk) to offend again.The factor,here, was the authroties’ performance on the day of court. The point being made here, is that using the events (performance of) of legal and organisation entities, as described above, is not an identify factor for an offender. If the evidence for the prosecution of a certain offence is dependent on a probation officer, for example, giving testimony, on the day of court, and is on sick leave, then the offender does not get convicted for that offence. Does the risk score be less because the probation officer was on sick leave? Answer : yes according to the existing scoring regime. So, this item is wrong and needs to removed and replaced with nothing. The number of offences is a manufactured value based on chance and the work habits of the prosecutorial authorities. The more accurate measure, that should be used here, is “Number of occurrences (as perceived by the offender)” as defined above in the Glossary.

    Author : John

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