Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

What are the triggers, behaviours and methodology of adult male internet child sex offenders with no previous offending history who access indecent and abusive images of children?

  Mike Harmson-Silvestri (2019 cohort)

My study will explore why adult males with no previous offending history choose to access indecent and abusive images of children online. In addition, my PhD will also focus on the methods and means used by the offenders to access indecent images through peer to peer sites, VPN and TOR routers. The idea for this study came about from my work within the sexual offending unit during my service in the police sexual offences unit; and also as a civilian investigator in the sex offender management unit . Part of my role in the sex offender management unit involved assessing the risk of convicted sex offenders, in particular those who had accessed indecent and abusive images of children.

Most of the offenders i spoke with had never committed any crimes previously to accessing indecent images; and almost all of them had responsible jobs and were married with children or in stable relationships. As part of the Home Office risk management tool, managers have to question the offenders on how they first came to access the images. Moreover, most of them cited a significant life event as a precursor to their offending, such as a bereavement, loss of job or a relationship break down. In addition, the study will also explore the theory of the internet enabling and facilitating the use of online child sexual offending over the past 20 plus years. In addition, Webb, Craissati & Keen (2007) suggest that most internet child sex offenders are aged between 25 to 50 which is of some importance, given that the internet as we know it is approximately 24 years old

Furthermore, there are minimal qualitative studies regarding this subject as most are focused on contact or mixed sex offenders. Therefore, it is important to fully explore this subject  in order to identify the triggers or motivations which are associated with offenders accessing the images. The study is qualitative in design and will use semi structured interviews with the assistance of East Midlands Police and The Lucy Faithful Foundation Charity. Interviews will be then transcribed and coded for specific themes relating to the circumstances or behaviour which led  the offending behaviour. It is envisaged that the results from this study will assist criminal justice agencies, health care professionals and charities to better understand the potential  triggers and behaviours which may lead up to offending behaviour. This in turn may also identify potential offenders at an early stage and also greatly  improve recidivism rates.  

   

This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (UKRI Grant No. EP/S023305/1).