Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements

Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) is the name given to arrangements in England and Wales for the "responsible authorities" tasked with the management of registered sex offenders, violent and other types of sexual offenders, and offenders who pose a serious risk of harm to the public.[1] The "responsible authorities" of the MAPPA include the National Probation Directorate, HM Prison Service and England and Wales Police Forces. MAPPA is coordinated and supported nationally by the Public Protection Unit within the National Offender Management Service. MAPPA was introduced by the Criminal Justice and Courts Services Act 2000 and was strengthened under the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Following the Criminal Justice Act 2003, Lay Advisors have been introduced to sit on Strategic Management Boards (SMBs) who have the strategic oversight of MAPPA. These are members of the public who have been selected to help with the development and monitoring of Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements and aim to boost public confidence in the arrangements. There should be two Lay Advisers on each SMB in England and Wales, a total of 84 nationally.

Assessment of offenders

The legislation requires a three stage process for managing dangerous offenders. First, these three agencies in conjunction with partner agencies, such as social services and health agencies need to identify three types of offender living in their area:

  • Category 1: Registered Sex Offenders (RSOs),
  • Category 2: All offenders who have received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more in prison for a sexual or violent offence and whilst they remain under Probation supervision.
  • Category 3: Anyone else who poses a "risk of serious harm to the public" who has received a conviction and whose risk would be better managed in a multi-agency setting.

An offender cannot be in more than one MAPPA Category, and if multiple offences are committed, they will default to the lowest number category. For instance, if an offender committed an attempted murder, but also committed a sexual assault, they would be a Category 1 offender rather than a Category 2 for the duration of their Sex Offender Registration. Following the completion of their registration, if they were still under Probation supervision/licence then they would become a Category 2 offender. If the supervision/licence had expired, then it would be up to the local area MAPPA if they qualify for Category 3 status.

The legislation then requires that the agencies conduct a formal risk assessment of each offender and allocate them to a tier of multi-agency management - known as level one, two or three.

  • Level One represents the normal inter-agency management of the offender in the community by one agency, with some liaison.
  • Level Two means that Multi Agency Public Protection meetings (MAPPs) will be held where the offender's management will be discussed between various parties involved in their case.
  • Level Three is essentially the same as Level Two, except that senior management representatives will be in attendance and greater resources are expected to be used in the management of the offender.

Level Three are sometimes called the "critical few". These are offenders posing the highest possible level of risk to the public and normally necessitates a specific case conference to pool unusual agency resources and ensure a strategically coordinated risk management plan. These might be predatory sex offenders, recidivist arsonists, extremely violent offenders, dangerously mentally ill offenders, domestic terrorists or people with dangerous personality disorders. At each MAPP meeting agencies have to share often confidential information, and will in many cases adopt a press strategy.

Risk assessment

Before a management plan is put in place a detailed risk assessment will take place to identify the circumstances and opportunities that are most likely to lead to a further serious offence in this particular offender and the steps that can help reduce this risk. This will study the offender's previous offending history, life circumstances, include psychological assessments (where relevant) and any work in prison that the offender has completed. The Police and the National Probation Service use a risk assessment tool called Risk Matrix 2000 which is assesses the statistical likelihood of re-offending by adult male convicted sex offenders only. The Probation Service use a nationally validated risk assessment tool called OASys which help predict the likelihood and circumstances of future offending behaviour. For young offenders, the Youth Justice Board uses a system called ASSET which is specifically designed to understand the behaviours of offenders under the age of eighteen.

Management Plan

A management plan is thus highly specific to each offender and their offending history, but might include any of the following:

  • Accommodation at an Approved Premises (AP) where the offender can be monitored.
  • A set of licence conditions such as having contact with children, or going within an exclusion zone in a town/city.
  • A Civil Order such as a Sex Offender Prevention Order (SOPO) to prevent the offender doing certain activities, such as not entering a town where a victim resides, not to have unsupervised contact with children.
  • A duty to report to an Offender Manager every week to undertake offending reduction counseling and work as part of their licence.
  • In some very extreme cases there may be covert monitoring of offenders to protect the public.
  • A disclosure of information to a member of the public for their protection.

The MAPPA system cannot guarantee the protection of the public as such, but can only "manage" the risks through the limited powers of each agency as effectively as possible. This means that all steps that can be legitimately taken by the agencies should be taken.