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Abstract: 'Sex Offender Registers – Legalities, Ethics and Effectiveness'

The sex offender register has become an accepted method of ‘managing’ the sex offender in the community. This paper suggests we should be taking a more critical look at the ‘register’ and its stated aims and objectives; is it fulfilling those aims, and how do you measure its value? What is it like to live on the register? The case study of the UK register will be used to examine the extent to which that register has become more of a latent punishment than a measure of public protection and in doing is starting to breach human rights.


Bill Hebenton lectures and researches at the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Manchester, UK. Alongside Terry Thomas, he undertook the early assessment of US state policies on the regulation of sexual offenders in the community, which informed the British Home Office response to policy development in the late 1990s. In 2003 he undertook the Home Office commissioned pilot study on introducing lay people onto the Multi-Agency Public Protection Panels (MAPPA). He has written on the implications of precautionary thinking for management of dangerous and sexual offenders, and also on the relative importance of developing the situational perspective in prevention. His other interests lie in comparative research, where he has recently co-edited the Handbook of Asian Criminology (New York: Springer, 2013) and the Routledge Handbook of Chinese Criminology (Abingdon: Routledge, 2014). He is Series editor of the new Palgrave-Macmillan Palgrave Advances in Criminology and Criminal Justice in Asia.


Terry Thomas is Visiting Professor of Criminal Justice Studies at Leeds Metropolitan University; prior to becoming an academic he spent twelve years as a UK local authority social worker and senior social worker with various local authorities. He spent six months at the University of Minnesota in 2002 observing first-hand the management of sex offenders in the USA. He is the author of the book The Registration and Monitoring of Sex Offenders: a comparative study (2011) Routledge, London and is currently working on a third edition of his book Sex Crime: sex offending and society, (2005) Willan Publishing, Cullompton (2nd edition).