Major investigation and public protection

Potentially dangerous persons

This module presents the rationale behind managing potentially dangerous persons (PDPs). It explores the ways which PDPs are identified, and describes the key elements involved in their management.


A PDP is a person who is not currently managed under one of the three MAPPA categories, but whose behaviour gives reasonable grounds for believing that there is a present likelihood of them committing an offence or offences that will cause serious harm.

Examples of PDPs include:

  • a person charged with domestic abuse offences on a number of occasions against different partners but never convicted of offences that would make them a MAPPA-eligible offender
  • an individual who is continually investigated for allegations of child sexual abuse but is never charged or never receives a civil order, but whom agencies still believe poses a serious risk of sexual harm to children
  • a terrorist suspected but not convicted of an offence
  • where a community psychiatric nurse (CPN) shares information with the police that a patient with mental ill health has disclosed fantasies about committing serious violent offences. The patient is not cooperating with the current treatment plan, and the CPN believes serious violent behaviour is imminent.
  • a person who has committed offences abroad that had they been committed here would result in the offender being managed under MAPPA.

These types of individuals could still benefit from active risk management but would not be managed under MAPPA. This management would usually involve two or more agencies, although there may be cases where only the police are involved. There must be a present likelihood of the subject causing serious harm in order for their case to be managed.

Although there is no statutory multi-agency framework to govern PDPs, a multi-agency approach is considered good practice. The CJA 2003 provides the legislative framework for the responsible authority to establish arrangements in relation to MAPPA offenders, but this does not extend to PDPs. The police, however, can decide that the risk posed by a PDP requires them to retain and share information. The authority to so lies in the positive obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as incorporated under the Human Rights Act 1998. These are Article 2 (the right to life) and Article 3 (the right to freedom from torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment).

Initial referral

Chief officers must ensure forces have a robust mechanism for receiving and actioning PDP referrals. The process should be communicated to all staff, with clear instruction on how to access the PDP referral form.

A PDP may be identified in a number of ways, including:

  • where there is an unproved allegation of a Schedule 15 offence (CJA)
  • information or intelligence acquired or received by police
  • as cases referred to MAPPA that do not qualify for MAPPA management but meet PDP criteria
  • referral from another agency, such as mental health services, childcare services or social services
  • referral from any individual or unit within the police force with information that someone meets the PDP criteria.

Any police officer or member or police staff who either has a concern regarding a potential PDP, or has been passed information alerting them to another persons’ concern should be encouraged to talk to a member of the MOSOVO team regarding the referral.

Risk assessment

As potential PDPs may pose an immediate threat, the initial risk assessment is crucial and central to their effective management.

On receipt of a potential PDP referral, a member of the MOSOVO team develops an intelligence profile to inform risk assessment. Local force intelligence systems, PND, and partner agencies checks assist in building this profile. The results of the checks informs the ratification decision making.

The person in charge of the MOSOVO unit is responsible for ensuring that risk assessments of PDPs take place in a timely fashion, are informed by current and relevant information and intelligence and the right actions are taken to manage the risk.

For risk assessment to be as accurate and informed as possible, it is essential that any information available to the police or partner agencies which indicates that someone is likely to commit an offence or offences causing serious harm, or is likely to commit more serious offences is considered. All police officers and staff must, therefore, ensure any information is recorded and routed correctly in line with their local force policies.

The assessment of PDP referrals should only be carried out by staff with the appropriate training and experience, ie a MOSOVO officer or offender manager. They are responsible for initiating intelligence work, checking the referral, and determining whether they are eligible to be registered on ViSOR as PDP. Referrals should be assessed according to the apparent risk they pose, including the initial risk assessment.

The assessment should include:

  • the nature and pattern of the individual’s behaviour
  • the nature of the risk
  • who is at risk (eg, particular individuals, children, vulnerable adults)
  • the circumstances likely to increase risk (for example, issues relating to mental health, medication, drugs, alcohol, housing, employment, relationships)
  • the factors likely to reduce risk
  • all relevant medical evidence available and consideration of whether there is a reasonable medical explanation for the behaviour displayed.

If eligible for MAPPA, (in accordance with Chapter 6 of MAPPA Guidance) the referral should be passed on to the MAPPA coordinator in line with MAPPA Guidance and local policy. If the individual is not eligible for MAPPA, staff should decide if the referral merits further attention at this stage.

Agencies checks

Staff should check with the following agencies:

  • health (including mental health)
  • local authority social care services (for children and adults).

Staff should also check with any other agencies they feel may hold information pertinent to the prevention and detection of crime. These agencies include, but are not limited to, the probation service, the local housing authority and local education authorities.

Staff should seek clarification on what the agency’s view is on the risk presented and what actions they are currently undertaking or intend to undertake to manage the risk.

Risk matrix

Staff may use a risk matrix that considers the likelihood and severity of risk. This can help confirm imminence and the likelihood of causing serious harm.

If the individual being referred is under 18 years of age, staff should consider making a safeguarding children referral. Children’s services (plus the youth offending team, if applicable) should be involved in any resulting processes to manage the individual as a PDP.

Screening decision

The completed PDP referral form should be submitted to the identified supervisor for a screening decision. A clear force policy should be in place which clarifies decide how these screening decisions are made and if they should involve other agencies at this stage.

The screening decision should be made by the supervisor, according to risk and, in any event, within five working days of the initial assessment. The decision should be noted on the PDP referral form. If the outcome is to not progress managing the individual as a PDP, the PDP referral form and all associated documents should be retained in accordance with APP on information management. If the decision is made to seek ratification as a PDP, the form should be sent to an officer of at least superintendent rank, including an outline of actions to manage the risk(s) presented.

Referral for ratification

The decision to ratify (or not) an individual as a PDP should be made by a suitably senior officer with the appropriate training and experience. The decision should be:

  • made according to the risks assessed
  • made within five working days of receiving the referral
  • noted on the PDP referral form.

If the decision is made not to ratify, this should be recorded on appropriate force and national systems, such as ViSOR. The PDP referral form, together with all associated documents, should be retained in accordance with APP on information management.

If the decision is made to ratify the individual, forces should determine which policing unit will be responsible for managing the PDP and make this information available to all relevant police officers and staff (eg, communications room staff). The decision to ratify should be recorded on appropriate force and national systems, such as ViSOR.

Once a PDP is ratified, a ViSOR record should be created in line with Home Office ViSOR Standards. Forces should determine which policing unit will be responsible for managing the ViSOR record.

Managing PDPs

Forces determine how PDPs are managed. This will include risk management strategies that are developed between the force and partner agencies, who work closely to share information regarding the PDP. This may include convening PDP meetings, which should include all relevant agencies. All PDP meetings should be recorded on the PDP meeting form and the minutes attached to the PDP’s ViSOR record.

Every PDP should have a risk management plan recorded on ViSOR. An offender manager will be allocated by the head of the MOSOVO unit to take responsibility for the management of the PDP. In addition to the usual policing tactics for preventing crime and reducing harm, the offender manager should consider the following areas as part of any PDP risk management plan:

  • information sharing
  • disclosure to third parties
  • appointing an offender manager
  • review of unsuccessful criminal investigations
  • applying for a civil order
  • risk management options used in managing MAPPA offenders.

It may be appropriate to inform the PDP that they are being managed as such. This is decided on a case-by-case basis and the rationale for any such decision should be fully documented. MOSOVO officers must be mindful of the Human Rights legislation that exists to protect an individuals’ right for a private life and to live free from degrading treatment, but this must be balance with the proportionate action that the police are duty-bound to take to protect the public. For example, PDPs engaged as part of a risk management plan should be informed of their status. This would not be appropriate, however, if the risk management plan included covert tactics.

If the PDP moves from one force area to another, local force procedures for the transfer of this assessment and all other records including management activities and issues should be followed. These procedures should comply with the Home Office ViSOR Standards.

PDP cases should not be managed indefinitely and should be reviewed at regular intervals. Staff should review and update the PDP risk management plan at least every six weeks. The police have primary responsibility for coordinating the management of PDPs. Other agencies may be given responsibility for leading on specific risk management actions.

Victim considerations

Victim safety, preventing repeat victimisation and avoiding the creation of new victims are fundamental to public protection. Agencies should ensure that their decision making is based on effectively engaging current and potential victims, where practicable and appropriate. By doing so agencies can establish that risk assessment and risk management plans properly reflect victim concerns and provide appropriate measures to protect them.

The safeguards relating to disclosing information about a PDP to third parties are as important as those for MAPPA offenders. For more information, agencies should refer to the chapter on disclosure in the current MAPPA guidance.

As part of any PDP risk management plan, the police should decide whether third-party disclosure is necessary. If a PDP meeting is being held, disclosure should be given due consideration on a case-by-case basis as a standard agenda item. The decision to disclose should balance the PDP’s right to Article 8 and the victim’s right to Article 3. Decision makers will need to consider how best to make a victim safe. This will include deciding whether informing the PDP, and/or the victim, will assist or hinder this. Proportionality is a consideration and this should be linked to the options available to manage the PDP.

Information sharing

As in all cases where information is retained and shared, staff should take account of whether any infringement of ECHR, Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family life) is necessary and, if so, that it is for one of the reasons specified in Article 8(2). These reasons include public safety, in the interest of national security, the prevention of disorder or crime, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. For further information see managing information.

Section 115 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 allows any person to pass information to certain relevant authorities (including the police and probation services, health and local authorities) where the disclosure is necessary or expedient for the purposes of any provision of this Act. This helps implement the provisions of that Act, including local strategies to reduce crime and disorder.

Necessity and proportionality

The amount of information to be shared with only the appropriate staff in each agency must be proportional to the risk presented.

For example, the PDP referral form may contain the personal data of multiple individuals (eg, victims and perpetrators). Staff should consider the interests of all these people when sharing this information. In addition, information shared with a single point of contact (SPOC) in an agency does not give that SPOC the authority to share the information more widely across their organisation than is strictly necessary.

The more information shared beyond that which is necessary, the more likely the sharing will be disproportionate and, therefore, unlawful.

Stored and shared safely and securely

All information about PDPs must be kept and shared safely and securely, and should only be available to, and shared with, those who have a legitimate interest in knowing it. Safeguards must be in place to ensure that people who do not have a legitimate interest in the information cannot access it. The more sensitive the information and the more serious the consequences of accidental loss or disclosure of such information, the more stringent the procedures needed to protect it.

Agencies must ensure that staff have confidence in the administrative procedures underpinning efficient PDP management. Accurate, clear and timely record keeping is necessary to demonstrate accountable information sharing and show safe and secure information storage and retrieval procedures.

Effective policing of PDPs requires information sharing and efficient information management. See APP on information management.

Deregistration of a PDP         

A suitably senior officer with the appropriate training and experience can decide to deregister a PDP if:

  • the PDP becomes eligible for MAPPA management
  • there are no longer reasonable grounds for believing that there is a present likelihood of them committing an offence or offences that will cause serious harm
  • after review, no additional reason has been raised that suggests it is necessary continue to manage the individual as a PDP.

The decision to deregister an individual as a PDP should be ratified by a superintendent or above with the appropriate training and experience to perform this role. This should be recorded on the original PDP referral form and noted on the PDP’s ViSOR record, following which the ViSOR record will be archived.

Requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000

The management of MAPPA offenders attracts a significant amount of interest, and forces receive many requests under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 for information on local processes and offenders. The management of PDPs can attract similar levels of interest. Any FOI requests must be referred to the NPCC national policing freedom of information and data protection central referral unit (CRU) who will provide advice, best practice and consistency. After referring a request, staff should not respond to the applicant before hearing from the CRU.

Page last accessed 17 January 2020