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Impact case study

Sexual Offences, Crime and Misconduct

Unit(s) of assessment: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

Research theme: Safety and Security of Citizens and Society

School: School of Social Sciences


In just six years, research by the Sexual Offences, Crime and Misconduct Research Unit (SOCAMRU) has produced key benefits for the management and treatment of offenders and the training of professionals in the prison service and NHS. The unit works with Her Majesty's Prison (HMP) Service and NHS Forensic Services to:

  • develop, evaluate and improve treatment interventions for high-risk sexual offenders
  • deliver research-based training to reduce corruption and professional misconduct in the prison service
  • identify offenders at risk of suicide and other forms of self-harm.

NTU's research has produced tangible differences in how offenders are rehabilitated, identified offenders at risk of self-harm and devised a psychological model to enhance offender management in dangerous and severe personality disorder units.

Research background

SOCAMRU is a collaboration between the Psychology Division at NTU, HMPs Whatton, Nottingham and Lowdham Grange, and Rampton High Secure Hospital. The unit, formed in 2007, carries out research on national priorities including sexual offending, offender mental health and staff-offender relationships. Funders include the ESRC, the Ministry of Justice, the NHS and the National Offender Management Services.

Offender rehabilitation

Research by Dr Belinda Winder and her team is of national significance as it has produced tangible differences in offender rehabilitation through the reform of sexual offenders in treatment in England and Wales. Dr Winder has worked with HMP Whatton on constructive engagement with sex offenders in denial. This is a critical issue for treatment providers as deniers are excluded from sex offender treatment programmes, making a sizeable number ineligible for treatment. Deniers typically serve longer sentences and are more likely to reoffend: 17.9% reoffend compared to a 9.9% reoffending rate for those undergoing treatment.

Winder's team redefined denial and contested existing advice to challenge denial, arguing from evidence that the denier needs to construct a desirable identity in order to effect personal change.

Winder and Blagden's work on sex offenders who are in denial about their offences has had a significant policy impact. As a result of the findings, the prison service is moving towards offering treatment programmes to those groups of prisoners.

Offender mental health

Dr Karen Slade's research has influenced mental health policy at HMP Thameside. Prior to joining NTU in 2011, Dr Slade investigated the value of the Cry of Pain Model in identifying offenders at risk of self-harm. She has extended this research at NTU, mapping suicide tendencies in the high-risk population of offenders entering prison. Her mapping of personality disorder traits of new offenders is now being used to target resources and treatment to reduce re-offending.

Offender management

Laura Hamilton works with professionals in dangerous and severe personality disorder units. Staff working with such offenders suffer assaults, burnout, emotional exhaustion and corruption. Relationships between staff and offenders can also lack clear and acceptable boundaries and behaviours. Hamilton developed the Boundary Seesaw Model as a way of resolving these issues The model help prison staff to maintain a connection with offenders, while at the same time maintaining a professional distance from them.

This model has proved to be highly effective and has had a major impact on the Forensic Division at Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust. The Trust developed the boundary seesaw model into a training programme to develop staff's critical appreciation of boundary management and risks.


Testimonial letters have been received from:

  • the Governors of HMP Whatton Service
  • National Offender Management Service
  • South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust


  • Blagden, N., Winder, B. and Gregson, M., 2013. Working with denial in convicted sex offenders: A qualitative analysis of treatment professionals' views and experiences and their implications for practice. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. 57(3) 332-356.
  • Slade, K. and Elderman, R., 2013. Can theory predict the process of suicide on entry to prison? Predicting dynamic risk factors for suicide ideation in a high-risk prison population. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention.
  • Forrester, A., Exworthy, T., Chao, O., Slade, K. and Parrott, J., 2013. Influencing the care pathway for prisoners with acute mental illness. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 23(3), 217-226.
  • Blagden, N., Winder, B., Thorne, K. and Gregson, M., 2011. "No-one in the world would ever wanna speak to me again": An interpretative phenomenological analysis into convicted sexual offenders' accounts and experiences of maintaining and leaving denial. Psychology, Crime and Law. 17(7) 563-585.
  • Hamilton, L., 2010. The Boundary Seesaw Model: Good Fences Make for Good Neighbours, in Using Time, Not Doing Time: Practitioner Perspectives on Personality Disorder and Risk (eds. A. Tennant and K. Howells), John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester, UK.
  • Maltman, L., Stacey, J. and Hamilton, L., 2008. Peaks and troughs: an exploration of patient perspectives of dangerous and severe personality disorder assessment. Personality and Mental Health, 2, 7-16.

Related projects

  • Winder, B. (Director of Studies) & Gregson, M. (2006). ESRC Case Studentship for N. Blagden "Understanding denial in sexual offenders: Implications for policy and Practice".
  • Seymour-Smith, S. (Director of Studies) & Winder, B. (2007). ESRC Case Studentship for S. Pemberton "Investigating (Mis)Understandings of Sexual Consent and Refusal in Adult Rapists".
  • Winder, B. (Director of Studies), Gregson, M. & Hamilton, L. (2010). ESRC Case Studentship for A. McNally "Internet sex offenders: Deviant collectors, voyeurs or predators?" In progress.