Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Risk Management Authority legal quango under threat after revelations of not fulfilling remit

A quango which is supposed to monitor and assess the most dangerous criminals in Scotland (not lawyers, is it ?) and revealed to be on the slightly expensive side, and, notoriously full of stooges from the legal world, hits the headlines for a lack of work ... are we surprised ?

The Herald reports :

Under threat: the £1.5m quango that monitors just five criminals

LUCY ADAMS, Chief Reporter February 20 2008

The body set up to monitor and assess the most dangerous criminals in Scotland has dealt with only one-third of its intended target of hardened offenders.

The Risk Management Authority (RMA), created less than four years ago and with an annual budget of some £1.5m from the Scottish Government, is one of the organisations under review as part of Alex Salmond's cull of quangos, The Herald can reveal.

It was set up in September 2004 after the recommendations of a 1999 committee chaired by Lord MacLean, the former High Court judge.

The committee was commissioned by the UK Government to consider the provisions available to deal with the most serious offenders who pose a continuing risk to the public.

It recommended creating the RMA to oversee best practice on risk assessment and the introduction of Orders for Lifelong Restriction (OLR), new measures to be imposed on those posing the greatest risk of violent reoffending.

The orders began in June 2006 and Lord MacLean envisaged they would be dealing with 10 orders a year with, potentially, an additional 40 referrals.

We want to build on, not disregard, the ethos and skills of the RMA

However, in the first 18 months just five orders have been granted.

An additional six criminals are still being assessed to see whether the order would be appropriate.

The authority has also been responsible for accrediting the assessors responsible for who should be subjected to the orders. To date, four assessors have been fully accredited.

The RMA also commissions and collates research on what kinds of interventions, assessments and programmes work and which are most likely to change violent behaviour.

The authority recently announced it has accredited a new package for assessing the risks posed by certain sex offenders. Scotland has some 3245 registered sex offenders.

Professor Roisin Hall, chief executive of the body and former head of psychology for the Scottish Prison Service, said she hopes the review by the government will be an opportunity to consolidate its work.

"We are working with the Scottish Government on a three to four-month review which will take into account all the key stakeholders," she said.

"We have been told by the Scottish Government that this is not because they don't like what we do, but that they want to copy the skills and ethos we have developed."

Last month, the First Minister set out plans to abolish or merge 52 bodies - reducing the number of national public organisations in Scotland to 121 within the lifetime of this parliament - the lowest number since before devolution. The review of the RMA will begin in March.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We believe the time is now right to review the role of the RMA, but our top priority is public safety.

"We want to build on, not disregard, the ethos and skills of the RMA, while delivering a more integrated approach.

"We will consult with all bodies and interests concerned to provide more streamlined arrangements for joint working in this important area of public concern."

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