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 explores what is known about the social media and digital knowledge and training of police officers in England and Wales investigating adult-initiated online sexual crimes against children. In addition, my PhD will also focus on the technology and methods used by the offenders to access indecent images of children and industry responses. 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 are often overlooked within research.  

Therefore, it is important to fully explore this subject to identify the gaps within the knowledge and offending behaviours.  My study uses a convergent mixed methods approach, using qualitative interviews and secondary data from the Internet Watch Foundation.  in design and has involved 12  semi-structured interviews with police officers and civilian investigators from a large UK police force. The findings so far highlighted several new and important concerns relating to investigating 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 a large UK police force which suggested improvements to working practice, collaboration with other criminal justice organisations and welfare concerns. This report will later be 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).