An analysis of dangerous sexual offender assessment reports: recommendations for best practice
The operation of Australia's preventive detention legislation depends upon forensic clinician assessments of risk for future sexual offending. However, to date, no information is available regarding how such assessments of risk are being conducted. This study provides the first descriptive analysis of the risk assessment practices of mental health professionals conducting assessments under preventive detention legislation around Australia. Eighty-six forensic evaluation reports on 56 sex offenders subject to preventive detention proceedings were obtained and analysed. Overall, the findings are mixed. Positively, valid structured risk assessment tools were commonly utilized. Also, there was good agreement between experts on the final risk assessment outcome, suggesting a consensus in relevant areas relating to risk assessment. However, a number of concerning results were also found (e.g., some evaluators adopted invalid risk assessment methodologies; others incorrectly applied and interpreted otherwise valid risk tools). Taken together, the findings suggest that the standard of practice of risk assessment must be raised. Recommendations for best practice are proposed.