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If you have been convicted of a serious crime, the level of risk you pose is likely to be something you are required to discuss with professionals again and again throughout your life. 

Some areas of your life that might be impacted by your assessed risk include:

  • Housing
  • Family relationships
  • Educational choices
  • Volunteering
  • Employment

Given that professionals are often faced with balancing the sometimes-competing rights of any victim, the public and the person who committed the offence - often within a climate of external media and public scrutiny - it isn’t at all surprising that they can often take a relatively risk-averse approach. 

However, you may find that a risk-averse approach restricts your life in a way you don’t agree with.  It is therefore worth having a clear understanding of how professionals in the criminal justice system reach their decisions and the factors they are likely to be taking into account when reaching their conclusions. 


The Framework for Risk Assessment, Management and Evaluation (FRAME) outlines the approach to risk assessment and management plans that professionals (commonly social workers) in the criminal justice system should be using. 

It explains the process that professionals should go through when assessing risk and also explains the principles upon which their decisions should be based. 

If you feel that a professional has not complied with FRAME, you may want to challenge that through the appropriate channels, including following any relevant complaints procedure and / or making use of an advocacy service.

The following questions may help you to consider whether the approach recommended within FRAME has been followed, and therefore whether or not you have any clear grounds to challenge any decisions reached. 

Have you been spoken to about it?

FRAME recommends that you should be engaged in the risk-assessment process so that you understand any decisions or recommendations that are reached.  

Therefore, if you have not been involved in the process, you may want to challenge any decisions on these grounds.

Are the decisions evidence-based?

FRAME recommends an evidence-based approach and suggests that an evidence-based approach has the following features:

  • It draws on a critical and impartial review of the best available research evidence
  • It values the knowledge base and experience of the practitioner
  • It is concerned with the engagement and values of the individual service user
  • It measures and reports on outcomes to encourage transparency and learning

Source: FRAME

If these features are missing from the risk assessment process, you may want to challenge any decision on these grounds.

Have you been given the chance to put forward evidence?

FRAME recommends that risk assessments both examine and document the following:

  • Risk/offending-related needs
  • Risk factors specific to the individual
  • The likelihood of further offending
  • The possible negative outcomes of such offending
  • Potential victims
  • The impact of further offending on others
  • Obstacles to engagement
  • Strengths, internal controls or protective factors
  • Targets for change
  • Measures of progress or deterioration
  • The level of monitoring/reporting needed
  • The level of rehabilitative efforts needed

Source: FRAME

You may, therefore, want to consider what evidence you can provide in relation to some of these areas. Notably, you may want to provide evidence on the following as they are likely to be most within your control: risk factors specific to the individual; strengths, internal controls or protective factors; and measures of progress or deterioration.

Has a risk assessment tool been used?

FRAME recommends that, if a risk assessment tool is to be used, it should be the most appropriate one recommended within the most recent edition of the Risk Management Authority’s Risk Assessment Tools Evaluation Directory (RATED).

Each tool listed with RATED is described and has information on validity.   For example, the information shows:

  • The age group the tool is applicable for
  • Whether there is evidence of its use with different genders
  • Whether there is evidence of its use with people from ethnic minority backgrounds
  • Whether there is evidence of its use with people with diagnosed mental health disorders

If you fall into any of these categories, you may want to check whether or not there is any evidence of the tool’s validity in your case. 

Is the decision proportionate?

Another principle discussed in FRAME is that of proportionality.  Whether or not something is proportional depends on whether the risk management action put in place is equal to the risk assessment.  

FRAME makes it clear that it is “unethical” to impose a level of risk management that is more than is needed to address the identified risk.  FRAME recommends to professionals: “we must respond to risk sufficiently, and no more.”

It is therefore important to understand exactly what level of risk has been identified so that you can consider whether or not any intervention or risk management action is appropriate. 

A table with examples of appropriate language use
A table showing the notification periods for the various sentence types. Prison sentence of 30 months or more (including life), Indefinite. Order for lifelong restriction, Indefinite. Admission to a hospital subject to a restriction order, Indefinite. Prison sentence of more than 6 months but less than 30 months, 10 years. Prison sentence of 6 months or less, 7 years. Admission to a hospital without a restriction order, 7 years. Community payback order with an offender supervision requirement, The length of the offender supervision requirement. Any other sentence (e.g. a fine or admonition), 5 years.
Last updated:
February 24, 2024


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