Alice in recidivism land: The queens logic and child protection workers' assessment of sexual dangerousness

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Journal Article

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Coyle, I. R., Halon, R. L., Campbell, T. W., Thomson, D. M., & Woskett, J. (2016). Alice in recidivism land: The queens logic and child protection workers' assessment of sexual dangerousness. American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 34(1), 5-36.

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© Copyright, 2016 American Journal of Forensic Psychology.




This article is based on a case that highlights the dearth of cogent and pertinent risk assessment information in the reports and testimonies of many involved in assessing risks to children in real life problematic circumstances. In the case, the decision to exclude an intrafamilial sexual offender from the family home was made in large measure on the basis that the offender's wife accepted the offender's "denial of guilt" to accusations previously made against him. Keeping families apart should not be entertained without reliable and valid evidence pointing to that decision. However, as will be seen, the evidence often relied upon by child protection workers, albeit in good faith, is neither. The assessment processes described in the case point directly to what appears to be a wider lack of knowledge specific to assessment of recidivism, to misrepresentation of risk assessment information, and to overarching epistemological issues that appear to be widely ignored and/or misunderstood within the overall field of risk assessment and threat management. The purpose of this article is to describe how the information used to decide upon exclusion in the case cannot be considered probative and to iterate the methodological processes that must be considered in such cases if miscarriages of justice are to be avoided.

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This document has been peer reviewed.