- Helen Erswell (Consultant in Health Protection, SW Health Protection, UK Health Security Agency)
- Rachel Campbell (Health and Justice Public Health Lead, Office of the Regional Director of Public Health Southwest, NHS England)
- Kieran McCartan (Professor in Criminology, UWE Bristol)
On the 07 February 2023, UWE Bristol hosted the third Public Health and Criminal Justice network event. This was a hybrid event with 45 participants attending in person and online. The event was a great success and highlighted the growing recognition that public health, health, and criminal justice need to be working together to understand the causes, consequences, and responses to criminal behaviour. The network is a collaboration between National Health Service England, UK Health Security Agency, and UWE Bristol. The network is a place for people from across the board (we had attendees from health, public health, prison, policing, education, and academic) to discuss these issues, upskill, change the nature of the conversation, and learn new, and hopefully, good, practice.
This event focused on serious and violent offending with several talks focusing on the impact of trauma and trauma informed practice as well as the challenges of risk management. The event happened in the shadow of a report from HMI Probation on the case of Jordan McSweeney and challenges that it poses for the management of medium and high offenders in the community moving forward.
The workshop speakers included:
Dr Anne Eason (Associate Head of Department for Policing, UWE Bristol) who discussed the challenges and the opportunities in managing violent and sexual offenders in the community. In her presentation Anne focused on the reality of working in Probation and the challenges of managing risk, she reflected on the McSweeney case as well as the case of Philip Austin, suggesting that the reality of effective risk management is rooted in working with the individual and recognising their past, triggers and the most effective way of engaging with them.
View Anne Eason’s presentation.
The next presentation tied directly to the talk by Dr Sarah Senker (Research Associate, UWE Bristol) that focused on the results of a project looking at the role of past trauma in the lives of men who committed sexual offences. The research talked with professionals about how significant they thought that previous trauma was in the lives of people who offend sexually and how you can work in a trauma informed way. Sarah reinforced the person centred, individualise approach that Anne advocated, suggesting that understanding past trauma means that we can better prevent future risk of re-offending.
Following on from Sarah we had two people with lived experience join us and talk about their pathways into, and out of serious and violent offending, They reinforced what both Anne and Sarah had said, but went further by giving concrete examples from their own lives and suggested that the system is not set up in a trauma informed way and that our responses to anti-social and problematic behaviour are retraumatising; they used the example of school exclusion to emphasis this.
View Sarah Senker’s presentation.
This presentation tied to a talk from Dr Duncan Gillard (Enable Trust) who discussed the work that he is involved with to reduce the reality and impact of school exclusions. Duncan highlighted the impact that school exclusions have and that there are more effective ways to respond to prevent anti-social and problematic behaviour before it gets to that point. He went on to discuss a model of therapeutic intervention (the DNA-V model) that looks to do this through a Cognitive Behavioural approach that engages with young people at an individual level. This brought the conversation back to Anne’s points about individualised approaches to risk management and community integration.
View Duncan Gillard’s presentation.
The final presentation of the day was from Professor Geraldine Akerman (a practicing psychologist at HMP Grendon) who talked about HMP Grendon, the work that is done there and the challenges, as well as opportunities, that a therapeutic community poses. The presentation neatly tied the day together as it focused not only on treatment and rehabilitation, but also on the role of adverse experiences, trauma, compassion, and rehabilitation. Although Grendon is a specialised unit we can see the impact that approaching the rehabilitation of people convicted of serious violence and sexual offending can have.
View Geraldine Akerman’s presentation.
The seminar concluded with a Q & A session, which was chaired by Justin Coleman who did a great job of not only managing the questions but linking them together. Justin closed the event by reinforcing in us that serious and violent offending is linked to people’s health, wellbeing, and social context; therefore, in order to reduce and prevent serious offending we need to take a rounded, holistic approach that combines health, wellbeing, trauma informed practice in a compassionate approach that considers the individual and the desistance pathway that they are on.
The next networking event will be held on 21 June 2023, with further details to follow.