SIGNUP FOR eNEWS
Project aims and objectives:
In recent years, an increasing literature has shown that a minority of offenders are responsible for the majority of serious crime, including violent extremism and sex offences. As a consequence, the focus of this project is to identify ways of targeting people who have a high risk of engaging in offending such as violent extremism or sex offences and additionally how people perceive that risk. Risk assessment tools for forensic populations have included both static factors, such as age and previous convictions, and dynamic factors, such as whether the individual is drinking heavily or depressed, to create a combined risk assessment tool (e.g., Kropp & Hart, 2000). Potentially, this could also be applied to risk assessment for extremism and sex offending where individual factors may indicate that a person is of increasing risk. The implication is that it may be possible to identify a number of factors that are associated with increased risk of engaging in violent extremism or sex offending and to respond accordingly. Thus, risk assessment tools in this context may help to identify information that needs to be collected, which in turn may provide a better indication of risk. Some important advantages of this approach are that it provides an evidence base and audit trail for the decision-making process; it can be designed to ensure consistency of judgments, and therefore; is fair, thus reassuring communities and complying with Human Rights legislation. Importantly, by guiding the collection and assessment of relevant information, these techniques typically outperform unstructured judgments.
2011 Project activities and outcomes:
As a starting point, we have reviewed the open source material available on all 21 individuals convicted under Australian anti-terrorism laws at the time. This resulted in the following publication:
- Porter, L.E. & Kebbell, M.R. (2011) Radicalization in Australia: Examining Australia’s convicted terrorists. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 18, 212-231.
From this, and the existing literature, we developed a risk assessment model concerning the information that might be useful to collect in counter-terrorism intelligence gathering. Risk assessment ‘models’ for identifying risk in general offenders were also applied to violent extremism. There is not sufficient evidence to create a risk assessment model to predict who is intending to commit violent extremism and distinguish them from those who are not. However, from a review of the available literature, a number of factors, mainly attitudinal, appear to be associated with increased risk of violent extremism. Some of these factors include beliefs by violent extremists that they are retaliating, that potential victims are less than human, and that their actions are religiously justified. In addition, violent extremists isolate themselves from positive influences, have a capability for violence, and typically access violent materials. Factors were considered in light of how this information might be usefully applied within an intelligence-led counter-terrorism context and evaluated with a simulated counterterrorism exercise. Importantly, protective factors were considered which remain largely unexplored in the literature. These include factors such as family relationships, employment and religious interpretations, all of which reduce the likelihood of involvement in violent extremism. This has resulted in the following publication:
- Kebbell, M.R., & Porter, L. (2011). An intelligence assessment framework for identifying individuals at risk of committing acts of violent extremism against the West. Security Journal.
We have also articulated how this is likely to work in practice in the following publications:
- Vogel, L. & Kebbell, M.R., (in press). Judgement and decision-making in the controversial Dr. Haneef counter-terrorism operation: A simulation approach. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law.
- Kebbell, M.R. (2011). Decision-making in intelligence for Counter-Terrorism operations: Assessing large volumes of data. Home Team Journal.
With regards to sex offending, in conjunction with colleagues at Queensland Police Service, the Australian Federal Police and Monash University, we are developing a risk assessment tool to prioritise potential offenders.
Further, we are developing interview strategies for working with difficult-to-interview suspects and additional methods of gathering intelligence on sex offenders (e.g. from suspect interviews; from investigations that do not result in successful prosecutions). In the near future, we are travelling to our major stakeholders in Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane to run workshops on Intelligence, Risky People and future directions for Australia in these domains. Our next phase of research will allow greater scope for our industry partners to be involved in the future.