Child Grooming: Predicting Level of Risk to Prioritise Offenders

MERRY, Oliver James (2019). Child Grooming: Predicting Level of Risk to Prioritise Offenders. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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The overarching aim of this thesis is to explore child sexual grooming offences, particularly the offence actions and offender characteristics associated with contact versus non-contact outcomes. This work makes use of two samples of child sexual grooming police case files, which have been content analysed to form quantitative data sets that have been subsequently analysed. The first sample consists of 95 No Further Action (NFA) grooming cases from a single UK Police force. The second sample consists of 136 grooming cases taken from range of police forces across England and Wales. In total, six studies have been conducted. First, a systematic review of the offence action and offender characteristic differences between contact and noncontact child sexual grooming offences. The findings of this review indicate that while differences exist, there is a large amount of disagreement between studies. Second, a comparison of online versus offline grooming offences was conducted, indicating several similarities and differences. While it appears as though the offence process is similar across contexts, the outcomes of the process appear to be different. Study three is a typological study utilising the newly established MCA-CA-DFA approach to examine variation in child grooming offences. A two-dimensional model was established, indicating that grooming offences could be classified on whether they had contact or non-contact outcomes, and a personal or impersonal style. Finally, studies four, five and six sought to examine the offence action and offender characteristic differences between contact and non-contact child sexual grooming offences. Study five made use of the first NFA sample and found that contact offences were more likely to be initiated offline, involve a receptive victim, and to not involve the taking/receiving of indecent images. Study six sought to replicate the findings of the previous study using the second sample, however the only consistent finding was that offline-initiated offences predict contact outcomes. As both studies indicated a large effect of offline initiation, a concern that effects specific to online initiation were being overshadowed. Consequently, study six involved another replication, however this time using a combined sample of all the online-initated cases from both samples. Findings indicate that in online-initiated grooming offences, the development of a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship was the only significant predictor of contact offence outcomes. Overall, this thesis makes several contributions to knowledge. Firstly, the systematic literature review collates and critically appraises the current knowledge on the differences between contact and non-contact grooming offences to identify gaps within the literature. As part of this review, a high degree of conflicting findings were found. Therefore, the second contribution of the thesis involves a validation of these previous findings to highlight which findings have the most support. Thirdly, the research has contributed to knowledge by conducting research using authentic offender-victim grooming offences. A large body of the previous literature makes use of offender-decoy samples obtained by vigilante organisations. This is problematic as the actions and reactions of these decoys may not reflect genuine victims, potentially altering offender behaviour. By conducting research using a sample of offender-victim cases, this can indicate how reliable this previous offender-decoy research is. Fourthly, a new typology of child sexual grooming offenders has been constructed using more robust methods than those that have previously been used in the literature. Finally, the research has identified a number of variables that may be useful in the prediction of contact versus non-contact child grooming outcomes that have not previously been acknowledged; including victim receptivity, different forms of sexual communication, and evidence of co-offenders. These contributions also have a number of real-world implication, such as educating law enforcement on the typical signs that predict contact sexual offences in grooming cases, which would allow them to prioritise investigations

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Whitfield, Kate [0000-0001-9208-9484]
Additional Information: Director of studies: Dr Kate Whitfield "No PQ harvesting"
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 15 Sep 2020 14:41
Last Modified: 23 Feb 2024 09:38

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