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Online-Issues » 1-2006 » Terry Thomas » Abstract

When Public Protection becomes Punishment? – The UK Use of Civil Measures to Contain Sex Offender

Terry Thomas

[Sexual Offender Treatment, Volume 1 (2006), Issue 1]


The last ten years has witnessed an increased use of the civil law in the UK to contain and incapacitate the sex offender. These measures have been introduced to improve community safety and public protection, as the criminal law seeks to punish and condemn.

This paper explores the contention that the civil and criminal law are in danger of becoming confused and the line between the two becoming blurred. At worst the civil law is in danger of becoming a form of criminal punishment in its own right and those charged with implementing it, in danger of getting their roles confused. What starts out as a civil regulatory or administrative arrangement for public safety becomes increasingly obstructive, has ‘gate-ways’ to criminal proceedings and is implemented in a punitive fashion.

Key words: sex offender, civil and criminal law, public protection

Author address

Terry Thomas
School of Health and Community Care
Leeds Metropolitan University
Leads LS1 3HE