The assessment of the risk of future sexual reoffending: Judges and mental health practitioners’ views

Professor Alfred Allan1, Associate Professor Hilde Tubex2

1School of Arts and Humanities, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Australia,
2Law School, Faculty of Arts, Business, Law & Education, University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Australia

The assessment of risk of future sexual reoffending is controversial, and becomes even more controversial when Aboriginal or Torrance Strait people (Indigenous) are involved.  As part of a more comprehensive study on ‘Aboriginal and non-aboriginal sex offenders in Australia: Assessing risk for practice and policy’, we reviewed cases where mental health practitioners’ presented evidence regarding such assessments and how judges considered their reports.  We further interviewed 14 practitioners (psychologists and psychiatrists) to determine their perceptions of doing such assessments (specific risk factors for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; possible protective factors; and the use of standard risk assessment tools for this population), the problems they experience and views about what can be done to improve the situation. We will in this paper briefly consider the professional ethical arguments regarding the undertaking of such assessments and then present our findings of the case review and qualitative study.


Alfred Allan is Professor of Psychology at the School of Arts and Humanities at Edith Cowan University. He is qualified in law and psychology and is registered as a psychologist with clinical and forensic endorsements with the Psychology Board of Australia. His areas of expertise are professional ethics and mental health law and the assessment and management of violent behaviour. He is currently involved in research projects on the ethical principles of psychology; the influence of voluntariness on the impact of apologies in law; sexual behaviour in nightlife settings; and the assessment of the risk of sexual offending.

Hilde Tubex is Associate Professor at the Law School of the University of Western Australia. She teaches an undergraduate course on ‘Crime, Justice and Public Policy’ at the University of Western Australia. Her areas of expertise are comparative criminology and penal policy, Indigenous peoples and the criminal justice system.


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