Predicting Recidivism: Key Findings from the National Sex Offenders project

Dr Caroline Spiranovic1, Professor Alfred Allan3, Associate Professor Hilde Tubex4, Associate Professor Frank Morgan2

1Faculty of Law, College of Arts, Law & Education, University Of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia,
2School of Population and Global Health, University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Australia,
3School of Arts and Humanities, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Australia,
4Law School, Faculty of Arts, Business, Law & Education, University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Australia

Predicting Recidivism: Validity and Norming of the Static-99-R for Australian Sex Offenders

Presented by Caroline Spiranovic

The majority of risk assessment tools used to predict recidivism in Australian sex offenders have been developed on predominantly Northern American populations of sex offenders. The extent to which these tools are appropriate for use with sex offenders in general is hotly debated but there is general consensus that if these tools are to be used, they should at least be validated through empirical research involving the populations of offenders on which they are applied. The Static-99-R (Phenix, Fernandez, Harris et al., 2017) in particular is the most widely used risk assessment tool by correctional service agencies for predicting recidivism in Australian sex offenders. A team of Australian researchers have partnered with correctional service agencies in each jurisdiction of Australia to generate an Australian evidence base on risk assessment of sex offenders. A major research question is the extent to which the Static-99-R is valid for use with Australian sex offenders (particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sex offenders). In this presentation, we report on; (a) where we have got to in developing a national sex offender recidivism database for Australia, and (b) the preliminary findings on the validity and norms for the Static-99-R with Australian sex offenders.

Authors – Caroline Spiranovic, Marie-Jeanne Buscott, Anna Ferrante, Frank Morgan, Kate Griffiths, Stephen Smallbone, Alfred Allen, Hilde Tubex, Stephen Wong

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

Presented by Alfred Allan and Hilde Tubex

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.

Authors – Alfred Allan, Cate Perry, Hilde Tubex, Caroline Spiranovic,  Anna Ferrante, Frank Morgan, Stephen Smallbone, Stephen Wong

Assessing the impact of community-level factors on recidivism

Presented by Frank Morgan

Most Risk Assessment Instruments make predictions based on characteristics of the individual offender, and, to some extent, the way an individual is expected to interact with their release environment – a factor also of interest to parole boards. But what about community-level variables themselves? What are they, and how do they influence recidivism? Do they have a major influence on the likelihood of reoffending? And should they be used in revised risk assessment instruments?

This presentation will review the available evidence, examine what ‘community-level’ factors really are, and discuss the desirability of modifying risk assessment instruments to include such factors.

Authors – Frank Morgan, Caroline Spiranovic, Anna Ferrante, Hilde Tubex, Kate Griffiths, Stephen Smallbone, Alfred Allen, Karen Gelb, Stephen Wong


Caroline Spiranovic is a Senior lecturer in Law at the University of Tasmania where she is currently working as part of three separate multi-disciplinary teams on Australian Research Council funded projects focusing on public opinion on sex offender sentencing, prediction of sexual offender risk and methods of preventing viewing of child exploitation material online. Caroline completed her PhD in Psychology in 2007 focusing on child sex offender typologies. Her research and teaching interests lie broadly in the disciplines of psychology, law and criminology with a focus on violent (particularly sexual) offending.

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.

Frank Morgan is Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Western Australia and the University of Tasmania. He is a former director of the Crime Research Centre at UWA and has interests in: Repeat victimisation and its implications; trends in crime and violence and how we measure them; mental illness and its links with victimization and offending; and family violence and burglary offences. He is currently the lead chief investigator on an Australian Research Council funded linkage project Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal sex-offenders in Australia: Assessing risk for practice and policy.

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