Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

Policing Adult Initiated Online Child Sex Offenders: An Exploration and Analysis of Police Officers Knowledge and Training Regarding the Digital Platforms Used to Facilitate Online Sexual Crimes Against Children.

  Mike Harmson-Silvestri (2019 cohort)

My study will explore what is known about the social media and digital knowledge training of police officers in England and Wales who investigate adult initiated online sexual crimes against children. 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 and social media. The rationale for the project relates to the minimal amount of qualitative studies regarding this subject as most do not focus on police officers training and knowledge regarding online sex crimes against children. In addition, the methods choices of digital platforms and social media used by offenders is one which is often overlooked within research.  

Therefore, it is important to fully explore this subject in order to identify the gaps within the knowledge and offending behaviours.  My study is qualitative in design and has so far involved 12  semi-structured interviews with police officers and civilian investigators with the assistance of  Greater Manchester Police. The data so far has highlighted several new and important concerns relating to the investigation of online sexual crimes against children. Also, I have recently completed a review of the literature regarding police officers knowledge and training relating to online sexual crimes against children which will be submitted for publication. I have also completed a needs assessment with officers from GMP's online sexual crimes unit regarding improvements to working practice, collaborative working with other criminal justice organisations and welfare concerns. This report will later be anonymised and submitted for publication. Finally, It is envisaged that the results from my study will assist criminal justice agencies, health care professionals and charities to better understand the digital platforms and social media sites used by offenders with a view of increasing recidivism and preventing offending behaviour.  


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