Delivering circles of support and accountability to protect communities from sexual harm and sexual reoffending


Case Study D

Intellectual Disability Circle

The Core Member was referred by the Forensic Community Learning Disabilities Team and has a borderline learning disability and autism. The referral stated that although CM had close siblings he was relatively socially isolated. He lacked confidence in social circumstances and had very few adult contacts. He was very motivated to make friends but did not know how to go about this. He wanted to work but significantly lacked confidence and was vulnerable to exploitation.

Index Offence

Index Offences: 6 x Making indecent images or pseudo images of children.  1 x possessing prohibited images of children. 3 x possessing indecent photograph of a child. Approx. 350 images in total.

Context:  on one occasion the Core Member [CM] took inappropriate photos of his young nieces showing part of their underwear.  As a result of this and the presence of previous sexual conviction (below) the potential for exploitation of children (predominantly female via internet use) and the possibility that his behaviour may escalate to direct sexual harm increased the risk and need levels.

Previous convictions:  

  1. Possession of Indecent photographs of children x5;    Making indecent images of a child x10 between over 8 years (total number of 14,000 images, the majority of these being pseudo or manga type images of children). Received custodial sentence.
  2. Burglary. Reports suggest he had wanted to play with the neighbour’s children but had been warned to stay away and broke into the building out of anger. Sentenced to a Supervision Order.

Sentence for index offences:  18 month Suspended Sentence Order with a 15 session Rehabilitation Activity Requirement (RAR).  He was managed by probation, police and Avon Forensic Community Learning Disabilities Team (AFCLDT).  The RAR allowed him to complete an ‘Adapted Sex Offender Treatment Programme’ with AFCLDT (which he did).  All aspects of the sentence were fully completed.  He is subject to 10 years of Sex Offender Registration requirements and 10 years of Sex Offender Prevention Order [SOPO] conditions.

Risk assessment and MAPPA level:   MAPPA – level 1; High Static Risk (RM2000) and Medium Dynamic Risk (OASys and ARMIDILO-S)

Referral:  Referred by the Forensic Community Learning Disabilities Team (FCLDT) with support of police MOSOVO [managing sexual offenders and violent offenders unit) and probation.  He was halfway through the adapted treatment programme at point of referral.

Intellectual disability:  Borderline Learning Disability and Autism.

Agencies involved:  FCLDT, Police and National Probation Service (NPS)

Purpose of Circle:  At interview the CM identified that social isolation, emotional loneliness and a lack of constructive activity were all factors linked to his past sexual offending.  Also he talked about his past tendency to avoid asking for help and his sexual preoccupation / interests are additional factors linked to his offending.  He was clear that he must manage such risk factors if he is to avoid re-offending.  He clarified that to stay safe he must limit his current use of adult pornography and completely avoid viewing content featuring younger looking adults or ‘hard core’ activities.  He accepted that he had an ongoing sexual curiosity regarding children that he must manage safely and that he needed to avoid any unnecessary contact with children.  The CM agreed with professionals involved that the circle could increase his confidence socially, improve his perspective taking and keep him accountable to his staying safe plan.

The Circle: The circle ran for 19 months.

Phase I: 45 meetings with 150 volunteering hours of direct contact time and 414 hours of indirect volunteering hours.

Phase 2: 5 meetings with 12 volunteering hours of direct contact with 25.5 indirect hours.

The circle appeared to be a good balance of support and accountability.  From the start the volunteers adapted their approach, communication and the meeting room environment to meet the needs and of the CM (e.g. acquiring soft lighting for his light sensitivity).  An ‘adapted wheel of life’ was used to insure they addressed all areas of his life and to measure progress (which was significant).  Meetings were mainly in a Quaker Meeting House interspersed with social activities and outings to public venues.  Volunteers occasionally accompanied the CM to important appointments and on new social or leisure experiences.

Progress & Outcomes:   Over the months significant improvements were observed by all professionals across many areas, for example:- self-management, self-confidence, prosocial interpersonal contact and relationships, physical health (diet, fitness and significantly reduced drinking), emotional health (loneliness and depression massively reduced), better understanding his Autism, leisure activities and vocational education.  As a result of this it was felt that risk levels could be reduced.  Probation supervision ended successfully.  He completed the treatment programme and was used as an example to other future group members about what could be gained.  He was discharged from FCLDT for good progress.  Police reduced his level of supervision.  Despite cuts to his disability benefit payments, the CM appeared so much happier about his life.  He even assisted his father (long time alcoholic) to reduce his drinking.  During the circle the CM’s brother was sent to prison for a sexual conviction.  By the end of the circle the CM appeared far more resilient emotionally regarding the likely impact of his release from prison.  Rather than being concerned about his own vulnerability, the CM appears now more concerned for his brother and about how best to support him to keep out of trouble on release.  The CM was commended by police for such a significant improvement in his maturity and attitude, which appears far more outward looking compared to the start of the circle.

At the end of phase 2 the CM stated that he felt much more able to set long term goals, particularly regarding his plans for education and vocational training.  In terms of developing new social / leisure activities, he made significant progress, joining social and fitness groups.  He explained that rather than surfing the web until the small hours each day, he now goes to bed around 10pm each day, filling his time alone at home far more constructively and completely safely.

Volunteers commended the CM on his significantly increased level of motivation towards setting positive longer term goals (rather than just short term goals as was the case at the start of the circle).  He was praised for the current frequency of his physical exercise, now cycling a number of times each week.  The CM’s greater level of maturity compared to the start of the circle was fedback to him, particularly regarding how he has responded to recent financial pressures and to the situations involving his brother and father.

His police officer reported that her last home visit was positive, with no evidence of any use of online adult pornography in recent months according to the specialized monitoring software installed by police on his devices.

Stakeholder comments:

At the point of the first review the CM had changed so much in his physical appearance (for the better) that his probation officer didn’t recognise him at first!

After 10 months the CM said:

the circle has got me out of my own world and into the real world”.

After 6 months the Team leader of FCLDT said:

He certainly has a lot more going on for him than he did a year ago and I’ve seen him grow in confidence. He really values the Circle and that’s fantastic”.  At end of phase 1 she said: “This is all very positive. The Circle has clearly been very beneficial for him. I’m wondering if he would be interested in talking to the new group about his experience of treatment and the Circle in order to help encourage others”.

Police quote at the end of phase 2 following the final meeting:

Wasn’t it a great celebration of a life transformed.  I would like to extend immense gratitude to you and your volunteers for the unstinting, selfless, commitment shown by all; which has enabled a young man who struggled to see life beyond his 4 walls and likelihood of further offending, develop the social skills and confidence that has seen him thrive and become a mature and responsible member of society, with a life ahead to enjoy. You must all be very proud of this amazing achievement.  The support I have felt by your team in helping manage CM within the community cannot be underestimated, along with the total professionalism displayed throughout”.

Email from police two months after the circle ended:

I have some very exciting news that the CM has said I can share with you and the volunteers.  Today he has been offered a place on maths and English evening courses at …. College.  He has passed assessments in both subjects and an interview.  He is very excited as you can imagine.  He has also just told me that he has been awarded PIP for the next 4 years, and received a large back payment for the last year. He’s on cloud 9 – wanted you all to know how well you’ve prepared him for this next chapter”.

Email from the volunteers 3 months after the circle ended:

“We recently met him and had a meal, a long chat and it was very positive. He looked clean and had a hair cut, said he had spent quite a bit on new clothes for college, and is looking forward to starting. He has paid back his sister the money she had given him to help with his rent, and feels in control of any contact he has with his brother. We have suggested that we meet up again about halfway through the college course, to see how he is doing – he thought that would be good!! He mentioned going on a couple of organised bike rides with his nephew. We left feeling good!”


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