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Ineffective treatment of sex offenders fails victims

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 27 January 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h199
  1. David K Ho, consultant forensic psychiatrist, clinical research lead, SEPT Secure Mental Health Services, South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, Wickford, Essex SS11 7FE
  1. david.ho{at}

Sex offending is high in the public consciousness, but people should know that the treatments offenders receive in prisons and secure hospitals lack evidence of efficacy, writes David K Ho

The recent widespread publicity surrounding well known public figures who have been accused or convicted of sex offences has indelibly etched sex offending into the UK public’s consciousness. Sex offending is not a new phenomenon. However, what is new is the revelation of these offenders’ profiles, their positions of influence, and the sheer number and duration of these offences, which were perpetrated and undetected for so long. Even though many high profile cases have been classed as “historical offences” many victims still experience consequences.

The response to these revelations by law enforcement and criminal justice agencies has been commendable. The focus on sex offenders has ranged from internal reviews conducted by various organisations to public inquiries and special police operations. The public have also stepped up to the mark, denouncing sexual behaviour that in previous decades might have been tolerated or even permitted. Collectively, this has led to more disclosures; as a result, more …

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