19 Apr, 2022

RMA Blog: Exploring the OLR

Dr Rebecca Wagstaff is our Research Officer and has been with the RMA, part of our Development team, since 2020. Later in 2022-23 we’re looking forward to publishing a series of research reports looking at the OLR. Here, Rebecca tells us a little bit about what to expect from the first report, examining offending behaviour characteristics.

As present, relatively little is known about the population of individuals subject to an OLR. Of the publications available, a small number have focused on the OLR population itself (Fyfe & Gailey, 2011; Gailey, Webb & Martin, 2017) whilst others offer a theoretical consideration and analysis of the OLR as a sentence (Ferguson, 2021; Van Zyl Smit & Morrison, 2020). The research project outlined in the following paragraphs marks the first of a series of planned studies designed to increase understanding of the OLR population. Specifically, it aims to:

  • Examine the offending behaviour characteristics of those subject to the OLR, including the pattern and nature of offending, by examining index and previous offending.
  • Explore whether the OLR has been imposed in line with the description of the MacLean Committee, in addition to exploring whether there are indications of the OLR having unintended net-widening consequences.

    The research will not, in isolation, provide a full understanding of this complex population. Rather, it aims to present detail regarding a particular aspect of the population (i.e., profiles of offending) and provide a platform from which further research can develop.

The research process began in April 2020, with the development of a method through which the required information regarding offending behaviour could be captured. The source of information for this study was the Risk Assessment Reports (RARs): the document created by an accredited Risk Assessor and used to assist the judge in making a decision regarding whether an OLR should be imposed. From those documents, the following detail was sought:

  • Detail regarding Index Offending
  • Detail regarding Previous Convictions
  • Detail regarding Alleged Offending
  • Detail regarding Self-Reported Offending
  • Detail regarding Behaviour in Custody

Whilst the degree of detail captured varied (e.g., a much greater degree of detail was collected regarding index and previous offending, as compared with behaviour in custody), coding for all five of the categories outlined above followed broadly the same pattern. Namely, offending/behaviour was divided according to its nature, and the presence/frequency of offending captured. Also collected for index and previous offences was detail regarding when the offending itself had occurred, or when convictions had been received, respectively. The information collected enabled the duration of convictions and index offending, the presence and number of offences (both overall, and of each nature), and the nature of such offences to be analysed. Also considered was the pattern of various aspects of offending in relation to another – for example, the nature of individuals’ index offending in relation to their previous offending. The offending profiles of individuals with convictions for IPV were separately considered.

To address the second research question regarding whether the OLR has been imposed in line with the description of the MacLean Committee, and potential net-widening, data from a number of subgroups of the population was considered. These subgroups included young people made subject to an OLR, and those whose index conviction was not a serious sexual or violent offence.

Full findings from this research project – including consideration of potential avenues for future research – are due to be published this year.

rebecca wagstaff

Research Officer

Rebecca joined the RMA in 2020 as a Research Officer. After completing a degree in speech an language therapy, she worked primarily in the third sector for a few years, before making the move to Scotland in order to complete an MSC in the psychology of language. Having caught the research bug, Rebecca began a PHD in 2015 and, more latterly, worked concurrently as a Research Assistant, with a focus on lifelong learning. She completed her PHD in 2021.

Our blogging platform is a space to express opinions and explore thoughts from the RMA team and guest bloggers. If you have a comment or a topic in mind you’d like us to write about, get in touch with the team by e-mail: communications@rma.gov.scot, or on Twitter @RMAScotland #RMAScot

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