Managing persons accused or convicted of a sexual offence: Council of Europe issues new guidelines

The Council of Europe issued a Recommendation to its 47 members states containing new guidelines regarding the assessment, management and reintegration of persons accused or convicted of a sexual offence.

Adopted by the Committee of Ministers, the Recommendation aims to guide national authorities in their legislation, policies, and practice to prevent and reduce sexual reoffending.

The Committee of Ministers recommends that risk assessments, treatments and intervention plans be individually tailored to persons accused or convicted of sexual offences.

Prison services and probation agencies should manage and seek to reintegrate persons accused or convicted of a sexual offence in line with the risk they pose. Therefore, the focus should be on an individual’s distinct needs rather than the type of offence committed, especially concerning interventions or treatments.

Whilst noting that cooperation between offenders and the professionals is central for effective reintegration, the Committee of Ministers emphasises that preventing and responding to sexual offending should be based on a holistic approach with a range of professionals involved.

In addition, protective measures should be available to prisoners accused or convicted of a sexual offence, where necessary, to prevent their victimisation from other prisoners and enhance their motivation for change.

The Recommendation states that national legislation should regulate the rights of victims to receive information as to the release of persons convicted of a sexual offence. Probation and related services should work with victim protection services to safeguard and protect the rights of victims.

According to the Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics (SPACEI), 7.8% of all prisoners in the 41 European prison administrations which provided this data for 2020 were serving sentences for a sexual offence (81,188 prisoners). (coe.int/photo pixabay.com)

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