To explain the persistent abhorrent perspective society holds of sex offenders, the concept of sex offenders, the evolution of salient sex offender legislation, and the relationships between sex offenders and social control with a focus on the current and emerging socio-legal issues are discussed. As one of the most vilified criminal offenders, sex offenders are inextricably related to social control as demonstrated by the disproportionately imposed legal restrictions they have experienced compared to offenders without a history of sex crimes. Public support of excessive punishments toward sex offenders has been bolstered by societal depictions that have induced perceptions of sex offenders as monstrous beings.
Aversions toward sex offenders unfold when it is perceived that the solidarity of society is dissolute and volatile. During these periods of perceived social disintegration, mass media emerges as a source that can contextualize the depraved actions of sex offenders, though the media have arguably perverted their role as an educator and contributed to misinformation. Education and revised evaluative assessments of sexual recidivism are suggested as approaches to redefine how sex offenders should be portrayed, as a heterogeneous group of individuals that vary in their amenability to rehabilitative treatment.
We examine the effect of an offender’s occupational status on criminal sentencing recommendations using a vignette experiment that crosses the offender’s occupational…
We examine the effect of an offender’s occupational status on criminal sentencing recommendations using a vignette experiment that crosses the offender’s occupational status (white-collar vs blue- or pink-collar) and the crime label, with one label (overcharging) associated with white-collar offenders and the other (robbery) associated with lower-status offenders. We expect negative and potent post-crime impressions of the offender and the crime to increase perceptions of criminality and, in turn, the recommended sentence. We term these negative and potent impressions “criminality scores.” Drawing on affect control theory (ACT) impression formation equations, we generate criminality scores for the offenders and the crimes in each condition and, using those scores as a guide, predict that white-collar offenders and offenders described as “robbing” will receive a higher recommended sentence. We also expect eight perceptual factors central to theories of judicial sentencing mediate these relationships.
We test these hypotheses with a vignette experiment, administered to female university students, that varies a male offender’s occupation and the word used to describe his crime.
Consistent with our ACT-derived predictions, white-collar offenders and offenders described as robbing received a higher recommended sentence. But, contrary to predictions, only one perceptual factor, crime seriousness, mediated these effects, and the mediation was partial.
Our findings suggest the perpetrator’s post-crime appearance of negativity and power offer a valuable supplement to theories of judicial sentencing.
This study is the first to test the hypothesis that sentencing disparities may be due to the way the perpetrators’ sociodemographic attributes shape their post-crime appearance of negativity and power.
The assessment of risk of recidivism in sexual offenders is fundamental to clinical practice. It is widely accepted that, compared with actuarial measures of risk, unaided…
The assessment of risk of recidivism in sexual offenders is fundamental to clinical practice. It is widely accepted that, compared with actuarial measures of risk, unaided clinical judgment has generally been found to be of low reliability. Consequently, the literature has shown a surge in actuarial measures. However, a major difficulty in assessing risk in sex offenders is the low base rate, leading to an increased likelihood of making a false positive predictive error. To overcome this, risk assessment studies are increasingly using the receiver operating characteristic (ROC), which displays the relationship between level of risk and decision choice. This note summarises the methodological issues in measuring predictive accuracy in assessing risk of re‐offending in sexual offenders, and identifies from the literature both static and dynamic risk factors associated with sexual offence recidivism.
Radical feminists position any forms of sex work as gender violence against individuals and more broadly for all women in society. I argue against the ideological stance…
Radical feminists position any forms of sex work as gender violence against individuals and more broadly for all women in society. I argue against the ideological stance that sex work is inherently violent and as a result should be outlawed, setting out how this ideology and dogma has allowed structural factors to persist. In this paper, I argue that despite the unacceptable high levels of violence against sex workers across the globe, violence in sex work is not inevitable. Through a review of the literature as well as drawing on research from the United Kingdom, I deconstruct the myth of inevitable violence. In turn I argue that violence is dependent on three dynamics. First, environment: spaces in which sex work happens has an intrinsic bearing on the safety of those who work there. Second, the relationship to the state: how prostitution is governed in any one jurisdiction and the treatment of violence against sex workers by the police and judicial system dictates the very organization of the sex industry and the regulation, health and safety of the sex work communities. Third, I argue that social status and stigma have significant effects on societal attitudes toward sex workers and how they are treated. It is because of these interlocking structural, cultural, legal, and social dynamics that violence exists and therefore it is these exact dynamics that hold the solutions to preventing violence against sex workers. Toward the end of the paper, I examine the UK’s “Merseyside model” whereby police treat violence against sex workers as a hate crime. It is in these examples of innovative practice despite a national and international criminalization agenda against sex workers, that human rights against a sexual minority group can be upheld.
Many violent and sexual offenders are mentally disordered or will develop mental disorders while serving their sentence. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduced major…
Many violent and sexual offenders are mentally disordered or will develop mental disorders while serving their sentence. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduced major changes to the sentencing of 'dangerous offenders'. The disposal given to these offenders has implications for subsequent clinical management in secure mental health units, prison and, ultimately, in the community, particularly when it is an indeterminate sentence. This paper argues that the Act also has implications for psychiatric evidence submitted to the courts in such cases. The changes appear to carry significant resource implications too, especially for community forensic psychiatry.
Purpose – The crime of child sex offending or child sexual abuse is a serious social problem. Since the 1990s, it has been popularly conceptualised as a ‘paedophile…
Purpose – The crime of child sex offending or child sexual abuse is a serious social problem. Since the 1990s, it has been popularly conceptualised as a ‘paedophile threat’ and has become one of the most high-profile crimes of our times. This chapter examines the social construction of paedophiles in UK newspapers and its impact on official regulation of child sex offenders.
Methodology/approach – Discourse analysis is used to establish how newspaper language produces common discourses around child sex offenders. Documentary research of government legislation and law enforcement helps analyse the ways in which official regulation is informed by media discourses.
Findings – Newspaper discourses around child sex offenders construct the paedophile as a distinct and dangerous category of person. This media figure informs government legislation and law enforcement in several ways. For example, discourses around paedophiles necessitate and legitimate punitive legal trends regarding child sex offenders and facilitate the conceptualisation of specific laws.
The conceptual shift towards understanding child sexual abuse through the figure of the paedophile has several detrimental consequences. This chapter offers a critique of contemporary media and governmental/legal discourses, pointing to misrepresentation, sensationalism, demonisation and insufficient child protection.
Value – This research indicates that discourses and conceptual shifts around child sex offenders are driven by the media but have come to be accepted and perpetuated by the government and the law. This dynamic not only illustrates the power of the media to set agendas but raises questions regarding the adequacy of official governance informed by media discourses.