Predicting risk of reoffending in child sexual exploitation material offenders: the use of Child Pornography Offender Risk Tool in a Scottish population
Background: The past decade has seen an increase in the use of communication technology such as smartphones and social media platforms. Although this improvement in technology might support enhancing communication, socialisation and even education, it also increases the risk of child sexual exploitation. Not only do more children now have access to technology to share personal information which could then be exploited, but more individuals have access to that technology to download, produce and share children sexual exploitation material (CSEM). It is impossible to have an accurate understanding of the prevalence of individuals having sexual interest in children (SIIC) and accessing CSEM who have not been caught. Research suggests that SIIC is commonly seen in the general population and does not solely prevail in sex offender populations. There has been an increase in the past decade in CSEM offences and convictions and organisations have been implemented to support individuals who self-report SIIC. Although research shows that these individuals who committed CSEM offences generally are at low risk of reoffending, certain factors do increase that risk. Law enforcement and criminal justice professionals are required to evaluate their level of risk to inform management, supervision and treatment in the community. The Child Pornography Offender Risk Tool (CPORT) was created specifically for this offender population and has been found to show significant predictive validity for any recidivism and any sexual recidivism; but has not been validated yet in a Scottish population. Method: Firstly, a systematic review of the literature was conducted to investigate the prevalence of individuals who self-report SIIC and their correlates to obtain a better understanding of the phenomenon. Secondly, the empirical research study aimed to replicate the most recent CPORT validation study to investigate the CPORT’s predictive validity in a sample of 144 Scottish CSEM offenders. Like the CPORT validation study, Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) and logistic regression analyses were conducted to explore its predictive validity. In addition, the CPORT’s Sensitivity, Specificity, Positive Predictive Value (PPV) and Negative Predictive Value (NPV) were added to the investigation of its predictive validity in this study. Results: A total of 27 studies were analysed in the systematic review and results indicated a mean prevalence rate of SIIC between 16%-21%. Findings also suggested correlates of SIIC such as the presence of mental health problems and adverse childhood experiences. In the empirical research study, ROC and logistic regression analyses indicated that the CPORT significantly predicted any recidivism (Area Under the Curve, AUC = .79), any sexual recidivism (AUC = .79) and CSEM recidivism (AUC = .75), suggesting that it is a valid risk assessment tool for Scottish CSEM offenders. These results were also supported by the other indicators of predictive validity assessed in this study. Conclusions: Overall, the findings from the systematic review suggest that selfreported SIIC in the general population is relatively common and some studies have indicated that individuals from the general public have already accessed CSEM or would do so if they were certain to avoid detection. However, prevalence rates did vary greatly from one study to another, depending on the definition of SIIC and recruitment method used. Generally, the findings indicated inconsistencies in terms of methodology and definition/diagnostic criteria of SIIC and poor external validity. The sensitive nature of this topic likely increases the difficulties that researchers encounter in recruiting representative samples as well as relying on participants’ self-reported answers. The empirical study indicated that the CPORT is a valid risk assessment tool to be used in a Scottish population of CSEM offenders. The implications of this research suggest that the CPORT could be used with a combination of other tools assessing dynamic and protective factors to inform relevant authorities and support them in the supervision and management of individuals with CSEM offences. Strengths and limitations of the systematic review and the research were discussed with implications for clinical practice and recommendations for future research.