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A Brief Profile of the Sample

As Table 1 reveals, a high proportion of the prisoners (60 per cent) had committed their sex offence or offences against children and, in two-thirds of these cases, the prisoners victimized solely children within their own family unit. In half of the child victim cases only one victim was named in the indictment. Of the one-third who committed at least one offence against a child outside of their family, only four had apparently victimized a complete stranger. Almost a quarter (27/116, 23 per cent) of offenders against children had assaulted, on the occasion leading to their current prison sentence, at least one male victim -- a group noted in the literature as especially prone to be reconvicted -- yet very few, only nine, had offended against only male victims. This profile largely matches those described in Grubin's (1998) review of the literature.  

Table 1
Classification of sex offenders by type of victim  

Characteristics of victim(s)

Any male victim(s)

Only female victim(s)




At least one adult stranger victim 0 39 39 20.3
Adult non-stranger victims only 0 37 37 19.3
Total adult victim(s) only 0 76 76 39.6
At least one extra familial child victim* 14 24 38 19.8
Intra-familial victim(s) only 13 65 78 40.6
Total any child victim(s)** 27 89 116 60.4
Total 27 165 192  

* There were only four cases where at least one of the child victims was a complete stranger.

** Three offenders against children had been convicted at the same time of a sexual offence against a person aged 16 or over. 

In comparison, almost half of the offenders against adults had committed their offences against complete strangers. None had been convicted for assaulting a male victim and four out of five had assaulted one victim only.

Almost nine out of ten of those who had committed sexual offences against adults had been found guilty of rape or attempted rape and the rest of a very serious indecent assault. Of the offenders against children almost six out of ten (59 per cent) had been

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convicted of rape, attempted rape, buggery or attempted buggery, and the remainder had been convicted of incest (10 per cent) , a serious indecent assault or indecency with a child (26 per cent), or unlawful sexual intercourse (4 per cent).

As might be expected, the offenders against children were considerably older when they emerged from prison than the offenders against adults. Of the former, only one in ten was aged 30 or younger, compared with almost half of the latter group. At the other end of the age spectrum, 30 percent of those who had victimized children were over the age of 50, whereas just 3 per cent of the offenders against adults were so old. This was due to the victimizers of children being older at the time of conviction, rather than the length of their sentence.

A quarter of the offenders against adults and a fifth of the offenders against children had a previous conviction for a sexual offence, and 42 per cent of both groups had more than one sexual conviction. Amongst those who had offended against a child outside their own family a third had a history of known sexual offending, compared with only 14 per cent of those who had victimized solely family members.

An indicator of the seriousness of previous convictions is whether a prison sentence had been imposed. Of the 43 prisoners with a prior conviction for a sexual offence, 25 (58 per cent) had served a term of imprisonment but only seven (16 per cent) had previously served a sentence of four years or more for a sexual offence.


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