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Perpetrators of child sexual exploitation convicted alongside others


We wanted to learn more about the motivations and behaviours of perpetrators of child sexual exploitation who were convicted alongside others.

  • Our research partner, Tonic, interviewed perpetrators of child sexual exploitation across nine prisons in England and Wales.
  • Completing the research was important so we can better prevent, manage and disrupt people from sexually exploiting children in the future.


Key Themes

  • Child sexual exploitation
  • Perpetrators





  • The grooming and sexual abuse of children by groups of perpetrators in cities and towns of England and Wales is widespread.

  • In the research we defined ‘child sexual exploitation’ as a form of child sexual abuse. It involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where a child receives something, as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities. Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology.

What we learned from the research

The aims of the current research were to:

  • understand the motivations and modus operandi of perpetrators of child sexual exploitation who operate in organised networks; and

  • identify interventions and approaches that could prevent or disrupt perpetrators.

Our research partner Tonic interviewed 26 perpetrators across nine prisons in England and Wales. This makes this project the largest primary research study on this topic in the UK.

The research found:

  • Participants interviewed for this research study were diverse and came from a range of backgrounds.

  • Perpetrators could be loosely clustered around three groups (A, B and C) according to their lifestyle, motivation, sexual interest and attitude towards conviction.

  • Networks were described by participants as loose associations rather than organised networks.

  • Participants acknowledged their behaviour to varying extents, with some using minimisation and justification to explain their motivations and offending behaviours. Some participants did not take ownership of their behaviour, diffused responsibility and minimised harm.


Implications for the work of the Inquiry

The research is used to inform the Inquiry investigation into child sexual exploitation by organised networks. We also hope the research will inform interventions and approaches to prevent, manage and disrupt people who sexually exploit children.

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