The RMA’s Annual Report and Accounts 2018-19 have been laid before the Scottish Parliament by the Scottish Ministers under Section 13(2) of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003.
Today, we are pleased to publish our 2020–21 Annual Report, which outlines our activities and achievements over a very different year. In March 2020, the World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic and like many other organisations, we have had to adapt to new ways of working this year.
Mark McSherry, Chief Executive, commented:
“In a year like no other, we have learned many important lessons about ourselves and our communities. I am immensely grateful for the effort of our team in continuing to deliver in extraordinary circumstances. As we reflect on the work we have completed this year, we have begun to look forward, and engage in conversations about how we can work together to transform the future of public safety in Scotland.”
Paul Keoghan, Director of Corporate Services, added:
“The financial year 2020/21 was an extremely difficult year for everyone. In the face of these difficulties, I am delighted to note our annual report and accounts evidences significant achievement made by the RMA in delivering its statutory functions while maintaining appropriate governance controls.”
RMA duties focus on protecting the public by ensuring that effective risk assessment and risk management practice are in place to reduce the risk of serious harm posed by violent and sexual offending. We have specific statutory responsibilities in relation to the Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR) sentence and giving advice and recommendations to Scottish Ministers.
This year, the high court issued 15 Risk Assessment Orders and imposed 16 OLR sentences. This is in line with our expectations for the year, and brings the total of individual with an active OLR sentence to 206.
The OLR team evaluated 129 Risk Management Plan submissions, a significant increase from 46 in 2019-20. The team approved 60 with guidance, 60 without, and rejected 9. In 2020-21 we increased review controls around Annual Implementation Reports (AIR) in order to provide deeper assurances that the risk management measures are progressing as they should be. With the introduction of the new casework model, the team successfully evaluated 179 AIR, an increase from 166 in the previous year.
A key area of work this year has been an in-depth review of the Assessor Accreditation process. We strive to ensure that risk assessment practices adhere to legislation and provide a fair treatment of individuals’ cases. Our Accreditation process is designed to be as supportive and facilitative as possible; the review is expected to be completed in 2021 with a view to opening recruitment for new assessors towards the end of the year.
Debbie Campbell, Head of OLR, said:
“The team have been working hard to review our current processes to ensure a consistently high quality of Risk Assessment Reports from our valued group of accredited assessors. I’m pleased to announce that we are preparing to open for applications from those interested in becoming an Accredited Assessor. Promotion will start in the Autumn with recruitment commencing early 2022.”
Over this year we have continued to undertake and publish impactful research to improve justice services for everyone in Scotland. Our Development team are currently producing a series of OLR Research papers to better understand the characteristics of individuals with an OLR. You can find updates on this project here.
In addition, with the prevalence of internet offending continuing to grow, in 2020-21 the RMA formed and chaired a multi-agency working group to support the development of a framework for assessing those convicted of offences relating to indecent images of children. This project is now in the pilot stage, looking at reliability and validity, and usefulness for practitioners. If you are from a local authority and interested in participating in the pilot, you can find more information here.
Geoff Tordzro-Taylor, Head of Development, commented:
“It’s really pleasing to see work progress on the development of an assessment framework for those convicted of internet offences, with us reaching a point where through collaboration with multi-agency partners we have a proposed framework ready to be piloted. We are currently live with applications for local authorities to be considered as potential pilot sites. Once sites are identified we will seek to test the framework across important dimensions like reliability, validity, and usability.
The intention is that a 2 year pilot will produce recommendations to inform any consideration of future national implementation of a framework to support practitioners”.
We are proud to announce that the RMA are taking on a secondary assurance role in relation to First Grant of Temporary Release applications. This is a consultative function only, working closely with the Scottish Prison Service, to ensure the risk assessment and management of complex cases meet our Standards and Guidelines.
As an organisation we are committed to developing our understanding of the impact of serious harm on victims. In 2020-21 we have participated in a number of working groups and forums – including the Victims Organisation Collaboration Forum Scotland (VOCFS). Our Head of Effective Practice, Lesley Weber, was appointed to the Scottish Sentencing Council as Victims Expert.
We continue to support practitioners across the country and promote effective practice in risk assessment and risk management. In 2020-21 we contributed expert advice to 21 working groups and have continued to provide support via the LS/CMI helpdesk – responding to 180 queries.
The LS/CMI Helpdesk Annual User Satisfaction Survey 2020: 100% of respondents were satisfied/very satisfied with the speed and advice/guidance given to their query.
In October 2020, we became involved in the review of the UK Government’s Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill. We have provided information to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice highlighting the implications for the OLR. Having completed rapid reviews of the available evidence, we have been working closely with justice partners to scope the wider impact for risk assessment and management. This is a key ongoing area of work for the RMA and you can find regular updates here.
Lesley Weber, Head of Effective Practice, commented:
“I’m really proud of the team for all the work they completed on the run up to the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill receiving Royal Assent in April 2021. The team undertook a review of the literature in relation to risk assessment and risk management approaches to counter terrorism, alongside an analysis of the impact of the Bill in Scotland, in particular the impact on Sentencing and the OLR.
We continue to work closely with justice partners regarding implementation of the Bill and to ensure effective risk management. Working closely with justice partners including Scottish Government, Police, the Scottish Prison Service, Justice Social Work, and Parole Board Scotland has and continues to be key with this project and we’re proud to have developed strong working relationships.”
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