Recidivism rates of sex offenders managed under the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003: an evaluation of actuarial justice

Michael Rowlands, Gavan Palk, Ross McD Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


According to the Dangerous Prisoners Sexual Offenders Act 2003 (DPSOA), an offender is considered 'dangerous' if there is an 'unacceptable risk' that he will commit 'serious sexual harm'. Current legislation operates within an actuarial justice framework, whereby increasing resources are spent on those considered at greater risk. There is limited research on the efficacy of this approach. The current study examines sexual recidivism rates of a sample of DPSOA offenders. Court files of 104 community-supervised dangerous sex offenders (M-age= 50.7SD = 10.8) were examined to determine date and type of re-offending. Recidivism was operationalised as time until arrest (for a sexual conviction/contravention). The overall level of sexual recidivism was low (7.69%). Kaplan-Meier analyses of survival curves identified no difference in rates between risk categories. While this likely suggests that they are not dangerous or an unacceptable risk, the strict conditions of supervision may be effective in preventing sexual re-offending. Further, limitations in empirically understanding the construct need to be considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-323
Number of pages14
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology and Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

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