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09 June 2014
Sex offenders’ scheme rolled out

Sex offenders’ scheme rolled out

An intervention designed to assist in the monitoring and community reintegration of high-risk sex offenders has been launched across Scotland.

This service places a ‘circle’ of volunteers around the offender to monitor and support them with reintegration on release from prison.

The initiative is not intended to replace existing public protection arrangements but provide an extra layer of interaction that helps deter reoffending.

Four years on from launching a Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) pilot in Fife, Sacro is in the process of training coordinators with a view to extending the project across Scotland by the middle of this month.

Tom Halpin (pictured at the launch), chief executive of the community justice charity, said: “Nobody can say we jumped into this. It has been a significant journey to get to where we are because what Sacro’s board, myself, and the team, absolutely recognise and acknowledge is that you can’t just go on a lone journey when you’re dealing with this subject.

“You have to take partners, communities and the subjects themselves with you in order to maintain public confidence. If we get this wrong, we lose communities’ confidence and that is absolutely key in our thinking.

“This is about keeping communities safe and making them safer and preventing people being harmed. That is what fundamentally this is about.”

Five CoSA circles have been set up and run in Fife since Sacro developed its own pilot in partnership with local criminal justice services after the Scottish Government decided not to fund the scheme.

Two circles came to a positive natural end, while one saw the individual recalled, though not for committing a further sexual offence. The remaining two are ongoing.

Forth Valley has since shown interest in the model with one circle up and running and another due to begin shortly.

Dianne Foster, acting service manager for the intensive support package and CoSA, said: “It is definitely not about befriending.

“We do talk about friendships in circles, and that came from Circles UK as well, but I would like to emphasise – and it’s certainly something that is done within volunteer training when we talk about a friendship within a CoSA environment – we’re talking about a friendship with boundaries.”

The cost of a single circle is estimated at about £9,000.

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