It is important to recognise that whilst these recommended parameters and minimum standards are provided as additional guidance to the Responsible Authorities. They are only intended for use by the Responsible Authorities to the extent that such activities are compatible with the exercise by the Responsible Authorities of their statutory functions.
Information held by Responsible Authorities about individuals is covered by the Data Protection Act 1998. The Data Sharing Code of Practice issued by the Information Commissioner https://ico.org.uk/ deals with a number of important issues such as Data Sharing and the Law; Fairness and Transparency; Security; Governance; and Individuals' Rights, which will help Responsible Authorities comply with these legal obligations.
Further advice on information sharing is also detailed in chapter 12 of the MAPPA National Guidance 2016
The National Accommodation Strategy for Sex Offenders ( NASSO) forms part of the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements ( MAPPA) and outlines how housing forms an integral part of this process.
The NASSO sets out arrangements for housing offenders who are subject to the sex offender notification requirements ( SONR) with particular focus on assessing and managing the risks posed by such offenders living in a particular community, location and property.
Local Authorities, the Police and the Scottish Prison Service as Responsible Authorities ( RAs) are required to work together to minimise the potential risk each sex offender may pose.
The effective management of offender’s is enhanced by close working relationships and meaningful information sharing arrangements. This would include health boards / NHS and registered social landlords ( RSLs). Health boards / NHS and RSLs are duty to co-operate agencies and will work alongside the RAs to identify where applicable, manageable housing and support the management of potential risk.
The prime consideration when assessing the manageability of accommodation for offenders is the safety of the community.
The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland and the Care Inspectorate Joint Thematic Review of MAPPA in Scotland published in November 2015 detailed the following recommendation:
“Scottish Government in partnership with Responsible Authorities should work together to produce additional guidance on the parameters and minimum practice standards for conducting an Environmental Risk Assessment which is proportionate, practicable and sustainable.”
An “environmental risk assessment” is carried out by the Responsible Authorities to identify whether there are any housing-related risks associated with a particular offender. The assessment brings together information on the offender, proposed property and location and nearby households. This informs the responsible authorities’ decisions on housing the offender in a way that can be used in the risk management of that offender to minimise risks to the community.
Environmental risk assessments must be done collaboratively with individual agencies providing the relevant information that they hold. Where an ERA is required all agencies are implicit in carrying out the assessment.
The Responsible Authority is the lead agency in all cases. Given the ERA process will commence when an individual is convicted and their address registered, in the majority of initial cases the lead agency will be Police Scotland. Criminal Justice Social Work will be the lead agency in all cases where the registered sex offender is subject to any Criminal Justice Licence or Order.
This guidance has been designed to provide Responsible Authorities with minimum practice standards which must be used when carrying out ERAs. Individual agencies will ensure compliance with these standards.
The purpose of these minimum practice standards is to:
- ensure national consistency of the data and information which is considered when carrying out an ERA across all Responsible Authorities;
- provide clear guidance on the information that must be checked when assessing the manageability of accommodation when housing registered sex offenders in local communities.
This document should be read in conjunction with the National Accommodation Strategy for Sex Offenders.
A model ERA template that is Violent and Sex Offender Register ( ViSOR) compatible is provided as part of this guidance. The Responsible Authorities are not obliged to use this if their current arrangements and forms cover the principles of this guidance and the minimum practice standards and guidance.