Interventions for learning disabled sex offenders

Sex offending is of increasing public concern with calls for longer terms of imprisonment and closer supervision of such offenders in the community. Currently a variety of treatment approaches are used including medication and talking therapies, though little is known about their success rates. The small group of sex offenders with learning disabilities pose a particular challenge as talking therapies need to be modified to account for the offender's limited understanding. We could find no randomised controlled trial evidence to guide us in the treatment of learning disabled sex offenders.

Authors' conclusions: 

Using the methods described the reviewers found no randomised controlled trial evidence to guide the use of interventions for learning disabled sex offenders. Until the urgent need for randomised controlled trials is met, clinical practice will continue to be guided by either extrapolation of evidence from randomised controlled trials involving sex offenders without learning disability or non-randomised trial evidence of interventions for the learning disabled sex offender.

Read the full abstract...

The management of sex offenders is a major public concern. Behavioural and pharmacological interventions have been used for many years and more recently cognitive behavioural based interventions have become popular around the world. Programmes designed for the general population have been modified for those sex offenders with learning disability, to address their cognitive deficits. The efficacy of these modified programmes is unclear.


To determine the efficacy of interventions with learning disabled sex offenders.

Search strategy: 

The reviewers searched the Cochrane Library 2006 (Issue 1), MEDLINE (1966 to Sept 2006), Embase (1980 to September 2006), CINAHL (1982 to September 2006), PsycINFO (1872 to September 2006), Biological Abstracts (1980 to September 2006).

Selection criteria: 

All randomised controlled trials comparing an intervention for learning disabled sex offenders to any other, or no intervention.

Data collection and analysis: 

Data were independently extracted.

Main results: 

No randomised controlled trial was identified.