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Child sexual abuse in institutional settings


  • We wanted to understand the behaviours of perpetrators who have sexually abused children in institutions. Who are they? Where do they abuse? How do they abuse?
  • We analysed recent, anonymised case files used by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The DBS use these case files to decide whether or not to bar someone from working with children and/or vulnerable adults.
  • We also explored institutional responses to the behaviours of perpetrators who sexually abuse children in institutions.


Key Themes

  • Child sexual abuse
  • Perpetrator offending behaviours
  • Prevention and intervention
  • DBS


  • The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Home Office. It processes and issues DBS checks for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. 

  • The DBS maintains the Adults’ and Children’s Barred Lists and makes decisions about whether an individual should be included on one or both of these lists and if they should be barred from engaging in ‘regulated activity’ with children or vulnerable adults.


  • Fieldwork: Summer-Autumn 2020

  • Publication: Summer 2021

What the research is about

  • We analysed DBS ‘discretionary cases’ to better understand what is known about the behaviours of perpetrators who have sexually abused children in institutions. 

  • We drew on recent cases, spanning the last ten years. 

  • These are cases about individuals referred by employers, regulators and others, where individuals do not have an existing conviction or caution for a specified offence but there are, or have been, concerns about their behaviour with children. 

  • The research looked at case files across a range of institutions, including education, social care, foster care and sport, among others.

Implications for the work of the Inquiry

  • The research addresses the gap in knowledge around the behaviour of perpetrators who abuse children in institutional settings.

  • It will help us understand contextual and situational factors within institutions which facilitate or fail to prevent child sexual abuse from occurring.

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