The issue of how to protect the public from dangerous offenders has been highly debated since the early 1970s (Kemshall & Maguire, 2001, p. 239) when a highly publicised case involving a mentally ill patient called for stronger preventative methods when dealing with offenders. The case involved Graham Young who poisoned members of his family, he was committed to a special hospital and later released without any effective monitoring or supervision, he went on to commit further murders using the same method (Kemshall & Maguire, 2001, p. 239).
A variety of sentencing reforms were proposed after this case, including indeterminate prison sentences (Butler Committee 1975 cited by Kemshall & Maguire, 2001, p. 239) to incapacitate offenders who are judged to pose a risk of serious harm to the public, these proposals however were strongly and effectively resisted by opponents. During the 1980s, concerns continued to grow about dangerous offenders being released from prison and how they were managed in the community. Since then public protection has been high on the Government’s agenda, it is now a formally stated aim of the national probation service and Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements have been put in place (Kemshall, 1998, p. 22). This essay will outline the development of those Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) before critically assessing both the strengths and weaknesses of MAPPA.
Power (2003, p. 72) asserts that the criminal justice system is in the grip of a public protection agenda, the core of which is multi agency co-operation. Recent Government legislation has meant the use of multiple agencies replacing single agency management of serious violent and sexual offenders who have been released from custody into the community. The Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) are a formal mechanism by which agencies can work together in managing the risks presented by those who present a high risk of harm to others (Nash, 2006, p. 160). MAPPA, created by the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2000 and later amended by the Criminal Justice Act 2003, began operating on 1st April 2001 (Nash ; Williams, 2008, p. 107).
As explained in the MAPPA Guidance (2012) published by the Ministry of Justice these arrangements place a statutory duty upon the responsible authorities, the police, prison and probation trust, to ensure that the risks posed by specified sexual and violent offenders are assessed and managed appropriately. Other bodies have a duty to co operate with the responsible authority in this task, these duty to co operate agencies need to work with the responsible authority on particular aspects of the offender’s life and often include social services departments, housing authorities, youth offending teams, relevant health authorities and appropriate victim agencies. The essential aspects of MAPPA practice, explained by Kemshall & Wood, (2007, p. 207), are the identification of the MAPPA offender; the sharing of relevant information among the different agencies involved; the assessment of the risk of serious harm; and the management of that risk.
These arrangements have many strengths including that they put the offender at the centre of the process. Nash (2006, p. 161) explains that although risk assessment tools such as the Offender Assessment System (OASys) and the Risk Matrix 2000 are the common determining tool, placing offenders at one of four levels of risk, professional and subjective judgements also play a key role in risk assessment. This allows close attention to be paid to the views and instincts of the members of MAPPA, who in many cases may personally know the offender, providing better insight into the offender’s background and their personal and social circumstances. Kemshall (2010, p. 204) advances that this not only provides a better prediction of risk than one based purely on assessment tools but also increases compliance. In an evaluation of MAPPA in 2007 (Kemshall 2010, p. 204) it was found that offenders valued and benefitted from attention being paid to their personal and social problems as well as their needs and personal goals. Offenders were more likely to comply with MAPPA supervision and many saw MAPPA as having a legitimate role in helping them avoid future offending and reintegration into society.
However, fewer risks are now being taken by criminal justice professional and more than likely there will be significant increases in the size of the case loads to be assessed and supervised, due to more people being categorised as high risk (Nash ; Williams, 2008, p. 3). This has led to a general expectation that partner agencies, particularly the police, would pay closer attention and devote more resources to high risk offenders rather than low or medium risk offenders. Not only will this lack of resources mean more of a reliance on actuarial tools rather than professional judgement but may have the effect of compromising rather than enhancing public protection (Nash ; Williams, 2008, p. 3).
A further strength of MAPPA is that the multiple needs of the offender can be met by a multi agency approach. It is acknowledged (Yakeley ; Taylor, 2011, p. 174) that the identification and management of risk is a complex and difficult task, risk has dynamic variables that can be influenced by a variety of factors and circumstances that need regular monitoring. Offenders have multiple needs (McSweeney ; Hough, 2006, p. 114), involving a variety of differing factors and circumstances, and as such, agencies such as probation rely on outside agencies to assist with those needs. Kemshall ; Wood (2007, p. 215) argue that the most effective method to manage offenders is if all the relevant agencies work together and MAPPA provides a framework within which different agencies collaborate in identifying and managing the risks posed by relevant offenders. This ensures the offender is receiving the necessary supervision in order to maintain a non-criminal future.
One of the central aspects of effective Multi Agency working and MAPPA (Nash, 2006, p. 153) is coordination between the agencies. A key weakness with MAPPA is that the different agencies involved vary in their core aims and core practices; McAlinden (2007, p. 254) explains that the core agencies that provide the foundation of MAPPA are marked by very different training, occupational socialisation, philosophies, and working practises. These contrasting aspects can cause completion between the agencies, which can be manifested in the form of mutual suspicion and distrust, negative views of partner organisations and agencies jealously guarding their independence. As a result, the supervision and management of offenders may be jeopardised due to conflicting management plans (McAlinden, 2007, p. 255).
A further problem in this area is the exchange of information between the agencies; Kemshall et al (2005, p. 20) argues that information sharing within the MAPPA process is critical for making effective risk assessment and management decisions. Information sharing and appropriate disclosure have remained a weakness of MAPPA and have received considerable attention. Research by Maguire et al 2001 and the Bichard Inquiry 2004 (cited by Kemshall et al, 2005, p. 24) identified that information and intelligence storage, collation, exchange, and disclosure are problematic areas for public protection work. The nature of inter agency working (Wood et al, 2007, p. 6) is that it requires organisations to cooperate in sharing information whilst all the time recognising the need for individual organisational autonomy with clearly defined responsibilities. Kemshall (2008, p. 72) argues that this causes problems for certain agencies such as mental health teams, who can be called upon to provide reports with regard to an offenders mental state. The mental health team may encounter problems managing the balance between patient confidentiality and public safety, which in turn creates tension amongst other agencies that are not subject to the clearly defined responsibilities of confidentiality.
Many commentators, (Nash 2006, Kemshall 2010, Wood et al 2007) acknowledge that whilst it is true MAPPA processes and systems have improved since its inception weaknesses still remain in the area of organisational boundaries. The organisational boundaries between MAPPA agencies have become increasingly blurred since its inception, for example there has been o much blurring between the organisational boundaries, roles and responsibilities of police and probation it resulted in what Nash (cited by Kemshall, 2008, p. 72) famously called ‘Polibation Officer’. Kemshall (2008, p. 72) argues that it is crucial that organisational boundaries do not become blurred, particularly in respect of statutory duties. Role and boundary confusion may cause concern among professional as they lose their own distinct organisational autonomy and identity, giving rise to conflicts between project loyalties and organisational loyalties. McAlinden, 2007, p. 255) agrees with this view stating that role and boundary confusion has been a significant factor in previous risk management failures and inquiries. However, Kemshall et al (2005, p. 22) stress that with clearly defined boundaries, roles and responsibilities being put in place along with enhanced training for the different agencies involved this issue may be overcome.
MAPPA (Kemshall, 2010, p. 214) has increased in organisation, scope and complexity since its launch but measuring its effectiveness and success remains a weakness. It is clearly acknowledged that eradicating risk is an impossible task (Kemshall, 2010, Nash ; Williams, 2008) So how can the effectiveness of MAPPA be measured? Kemshall et al (2005, p. 19) contend that MAPPA must surely be considered effective when an offender who poses a high risk of harm to the community does not go on to reoffend. However the problem here (Nash ; Williams, 2008, p. 117) is that although professional judgement and risk assessment tools may provide an indication about the offenders likelihood of reoffending no one actually knows for sure, except for maybe the offender. The effectiveness and success of MAPPA is therefore based on the assumption that the offender would reoffend (Nash ; Williams, 2008, p. 119). Indeed, Wood et al (2007, p. 8) in their research found that the definition of effectiveness within MAPPA was underdeveloped, partly because it is difficult to clarify and measure. They also recommended that MAPPA needed to develop ways of measuring effectiveness.
All criminal justice agencies have their strengths and weaknesses, the integration of them all into MAPPA aimed to create a solution to the weaknesses and to develop greater strengths (Kemshall, 2010, p. 212); MAPPA has been a major development in working towards the competent management of violent and sexual offenders and protecting the public. MAPPA provides a framework within which many different agencies can come together, share information and intelligence, and put effective interventions in place that meet the offenders needs as well as the need to protect the public. However, difficulties remain and whilst some can be overcome with enhanced training and clearer boundaries, others require increased resources to meet increasing demands. It has been acknowledged that MAPPA processes and systems have improved since its inception (Nash ; Williams, 2008, Kemshall, 2010) and perhaps MAPPAs greatest strength will be that it continues to learn from their experiences and evolve.
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