The trouble is that it is extremely hard to get reliable statistics. Child victims rarely tell. The great scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church are testament to that.
Compelling evidence of sexual offences and violence by nuns and priests has emerged all over the world. Ireland’s Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse reported in 2009 that sex abuse was ‘endemic’ in boys’ homes and ‘common’ in girls’ schools, with predatory abuse from male employees and even visitors, and that Ireland’s Department of Education did little to stop it and was ‘completely deferential’ to the religious orders.The Church of England also admitted to high level cover ups of “terrible abuse” including the beating and attempted rape of schoolchildren.
And when children do tell, it usually has to be coaxed out of them. Although surveys suggest many adults were abused when they were little, definitions of abuse vary, actual figures for paedophilia are scant, and what numbers we have tend to reflect the amount of effort police, social workers and researchers put into investigating the phenomenon.
17,727 sexual crimes against children under sixteen were recorded in England and Wales in 2010/11 but the criteria do not allow meaningful year-to-year comparisons. Nonetheless there are reasons to believe things have been improving. The NSPCC undertook two surveys a decade apart with broadly comparable samples and concluded that while in 2009 there was more sexual activity among young people than there had been in 1998, this was almost all consensual. The number of sexual acts that were ‘forced or coerced’ appeared to have declined. However, the surveys did not identify whether the assailants were adults or contemporaries. (Lorraine Radford et al., ‘Child abuse and neglect in the UK’, NSPCC, London, 2011, pp. 113–4) [http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/research/findings/child_abuse_neglect_research_PDF_wdf84181.pdf]
But by the 1970s the commercial market was being harried by the authorities and production by the big suppliers, Denmark and Sweden, was driven underground. In 1982 the US General Accounting Office was able to report that federal agencies no longer considered child pornography a high priority.
Richard Wortley and Stephen Smallbone, Internet child pornography: Causes, investigation and prevention. Santa Barbara, Praeger, 2012. Prof Wortley, Director of the UCL Jill Dando institute,is a considerable authority on situational causes of crime, including the power of the internet to excite inquisitiveness – and to encourage bad behaviour.
It is impossible to know how many people access the stuff, but when, in 2004, BT first introduced filters for child porn sites, they recorded a quarter of a million attempts to access blocked material in their first three weeks.
BBC News, 20 July 2004 [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3908215.stm]
The British-based Internet Watch Foundation has reported a huge decline in criminal sites since active site-blocking measures became routine. Even so, in 2011 they discovered 12,966 URLs that contained child sexual abuse hosted on 1,595 domains worldwide. There was also an increase in the proportion of videos and photos featuring brutality.
Police and other authorities have often found personal computers with thousands of pornographic images of children…
One of the first breakthroughs was Operation Cathedral, an international effort led by the British National Crime Squad which broke up a child pornography ring called The Wonderland Club in 1998 and brought child porn to public attention. A similar investigation began in the US in 1999, leading to the imprisonment of a Texan computer consultant and his wife whose porn sites were said to have a quarter of a million subscribers and over $15 million annual turnover. That led to Operation Avalanche in the US and a more aggressive and controversial Operation Ore in the UK which resulted in 1,451 convictions as well as several suicides. Since then British police have been at forefront of tactics to trap people accessing child pornography, including Operation Pin launched in 2003 in collaboration with other agencies around the world, which set up honeypot websites to ensnare offenders.
…sometimes scrupulously catalogued.
Law Enforcement Training Network, Tory J. Caeti [www.twlk.com/law/tests/letn1640102ct.pdf]. Some collectors are plainly addictive and obsessive. But extreme care must be taken in assessing reports of seizures. One much-repeated account tells of a computer found in the UK with 450,000 child porn images; in fact the case was in Australia, there were 215,000 pictures most of low resolution and many were plainly artistic and would not have been considered pornographic in other contexts. The culprit, Richard Ufnalski, a Justice of the Peace, was jailed for two years.
If all this material was available, then presumably lots of people must be viewing it, so individuals could excuse themselves for looking, and could rationalise the fact that many (though not all) images must have involved mistreatment or actual child assault.
Not all pornographic images of children are obtained by coercion or violence. A substantial survey of internet users aged ten to seventeen found 2.5 per cent of them engaged in sexual adventures online involving sexting – posting provocative images of themselves online, almost half of them uploading pictures of naked breasts, genitals or bottoms. (Prevalence of Sexting, Crimes Against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire, 2012 [http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/]
We know this from an ingenious experiment by two British researchers, Christina Demetriou and Andrew Silke. The pair of them set up an internet sting called the Cyber Magpie. Their website attracted people with terms like ‘freeware’, or ‘free software’, and when surfers got there they were offered links not just to shareware but to soft and hard pornography. By tracking the key words some 800 visitors had used to find the site, the investigators were able to show that only twenty-six had previously been looking for pornography – but temptation is a powerful thing, even to those without much prior motivation. Having seen the opportunity, almost 500 clicked on the option for hard porn. Soft porn was second favourite, while freeware, the thing that everyone had been looking for, got fewest clicks of all.
Christina Demetriou and Andrew Silke, ‘A Criminological Internet “Sting”. Experimental Evidence of Illegal and Deviant Visits to a Website Trap’, British Journal of Criminology, 2003, Vol. 43(1), pp. 213–22. [doi:10.1093/bjc/43.1.213]
…while in 1800 around a quarter of sex cases brought to court involved a victim aged under thirteen, sample records show the proportion rose to half by 1830 and three-quarters by 1900.
Louise Ainsley Jackson, Child Sexual Abuse in Victorian England, Routledge, London, 2000, p. 21
So the internet was new but the attraction it presented was not, and it ensnared many people who otherwise would have had no chance to experience anything like it.
There are many another examples of sex crime encouraged and enabled by the internet, including grooming of children for exploitation and, though this receives too little attention, use of the internet by underage children for their own sexual escapades (see reference to Prevalence of Sexting above).
But there is no sign of any changes in attitudes to child sex abuse other than growing awareness of the problem. The outrage it provokes suggests social values are as uncompromising as they have ever been.
In one celebrated case a hospital doctor was said to have been attacked because someone confused ‘paedophile’ and ‘paediatrician’. This bizarre ‘assault’ became part of folklore. In fact Brendan O’Neill, the original reporter, says the attack was minor graffiti, probably by children, and there was no reason to believe the culprits knew the occupant was a (female) doctor [see Press Gazette blog: http://blogs.pressgazette.co.uk/wire/8897].
…the people caught for downloading images tend to appear normal in most other respects. US studies of offenders all point to the same conclusions: few had previous sex convictions and as a whole they were much more educationally and socio-economically diverse than people convicted of child molestation.
This does not mean that serious and violent paedophile offenders do not also use child pornography; rather that they represent a small fraction of the market.
Janis Wolak, David Finkelhor, and Kimberly Mitchell, ‘Child pornography possessors: trends in offender and case characteristics’, Sexual abuse: a journal of research and treatment, 2011, Vol. 23(1), pp. 22–4.
Michael C. Seto; James M. Cantor, Ray Blanchard, ‘Child pornography offenses are a valid diagnostic indicator of pedophilia’, Journal of abnormal psychology, 2006, Vol. 115, No. 3, pp. 610–15.
When British psychologists compared internet offenders with contact abusers, they found surfers tended to be under-assertive rather than manipulative, and kept to fantasy because they could readily empathise with victims.
Ian Elliott, Anthony Beech, Rebecca Mandeville-Norton and Elizabeth Hayes, ‘Psychological Profiles of Internet Sexual offenders’, Sexual Abuse, March 2009, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 76–92.
The fact that many abusers are into kiddie-porn does not mean pornography addicts are into abuse.
Dean Knudsen, ‘Child sexual abuse and pornography: Is there a relationship?’ Journal of Family Violence, 1988, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp. 253–67 (‘An assessment of the research literature suggests that pornography is a minor and indirect influence on child sexual maltreatment.’)
Old fashioned criminologists, who think situational crime prevention is ‘sociologically deracinated’ (yes, really) and only works with ‘shallow end’ acquisitive crimes, have argued that these ‘culture of now’ offences are the result of an increasingly selfish consumer society and are immune to situational interventions.
Keith Hayward, ‘Situational Crime Prevention and its discontents: Rational Choice Theory versus the “Culture of Now”’ Social Policy and Administration, Vol. 41 Issue 3, 2007, p. 233. Keith Hayward will bridle at being called an old-fashioned criminologist since he and colleagues have relabelled themselves ‘cultural criminologists’ but essentially they are theoretical sociologists who ‘focus on situated meaning’, but offer no solutions to crime, oppose reductionism and think facts and figures tend to be ‘meaningless’ (Jeff Ferrell, ‘Cultural Criminology’, Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, p. 3. [http://www.culturalcriminology.org/papers/cult-crim-blackwell-ency-soc.pdf]
…a crime scientist has pointed out that expressive crimes all have their own rewards just like any other voluntary act: the fun of joyriding, the thrill of violence, the gratification of pornography or the self-publicising buzz of graffiti (‘there is no little irony in the fact that graffiti artists use signature tags to retain their informal intellectual ownership’).
Graham Farrell, ‘Situational crime prevention and its discontents: rational choice theory and harm reduction versus cultural criminology’, Social Policy and Administration: An International Journal of Policy and Research, 2008, Vol. 43, No. 1, pp. 32–59.
Football was associated with hooliganism from its beginnings in the thirteenth century, so much so that by 1314 the Mayor of London commanded ‘upon pain of imprisonment, that such games shall not be practiced henceforth within this city’.
Giovanni Carnibella, Anne Fox, Kate Fox, Joe McCann, James Marsh and Peter Marsh, Football violence in Europe: A report to the Amsterdam Group, Social Issues Research centre, 1996, p. 19. [http://www.sirc.org/publik/football_violence.pdf]
This is not to downplay the hugely skilful public order capabilities developed by the police, nor the enormous efforts they have made to find and catch the worst of the football hooligans – banning orders have proved very important. It has been a partnership success.
About 5,000 police officers are needed each Saturday to control English football matches, along with five or six times that number of stewards, but much of this is to ensure crowd safety (more than 300 fans died through crushing injuries in the twentieth century resulting in nine public inquiries). An onslaught of new laws in the 1980s and ’90s strengthened crowd management powers, for example to search fans and control drinking, but the key criminal justice measure was to remove offenders from their primary temptation: between 3,500 and 4,500 persistent troublemakers have banned each year from attending matches since the early 1990s. [Figures from Home Office and Sir Norman Chester Centre for Football Research: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/football-arrests-0506; http://www.furd.org/resources/fs2.pdf.]
The atmosphere at major matches is far from sportsmanlike, with jeers and personal abuse for opposing players, and many fans still indulge en masse in cruel songs and disgusting chants against individuals.
Hateful chants and songs have included threats of lynching aimed at the player Sol Campbell, chants of ‘paedophile’ addressed to Arsene Wenger, and ‘you should have died in the tunnel’ screamed at Cristiano Ronaldo. But British players get worse abuse abroad, and have been subjected to racist taunts and neo-Nazi threats in several countries including Spain and Croatia.
In a test case Leeds United shrugged off responsibility to contribute to policing outside its grounds in a worrying High Court decision which may prompt other clubs to set the clock back too.
Leeds United v. W. Yorkshire Police, before Mr Justice Eady in the High Court, 24 June 2012.
It is a straightforward self-policing mechanism already adopted in principle by the football authorities. For example, Article 58 of FIFA’s disciplinary code allows that points can be deducted for racist abuse or that matches have to be played behind closed doors. Society may have to oblige the clubs to act more decisively, since essentially the football industry still believes it profits from tribal and edgy supporters.
Now that English football has become more of a family affair some old-guard fans complain of sanitisation and a loss of atmosphere. Nonetheless the great majority of fans will concede that the changes have been beneficial, and, against the predictions of some, curbing the excesses of fans and players has done nothing to harm the industry’s commercial health.
The term also had strong racial overtones: the perpetrators were overwhelmingly black. In short, mugging came to epitomise everything that was rotten in Gotham and alarming to the middle classes.
Incidentally the name Gotham for New York, like the word mugging, originated in England.
… many criminologists tried to dismiss it all as ‘moral panic’. But they were victims of their own innumeracy; even their own figures showed the problem was growing at a rate unprecedented in the twentieth century.
P. A. J. (James) Waddington, ‘Mugging as a moral panic: a question of proportion’, British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 37, No. 2, June 1986 (James Waddington is an ex-police officer and now a professor of social policy).
It turned out that the worst of the UK’s street crime phenomenon lagged almost two decades behind the US, with reported cases doubling in the 1990s when they were sharply declining in America.
Even so, street theft remained an obstinate challenge.
It was also a largely juvenile business.
Of street crimes reported to police, more than two-thirds of typical assailants were teenagers, many aged between eleven and fifteen and some were under ten.
See Simon Hallsworth, Street Crime, Willan, London, 2005, ISBN-10: 1-843920-28-X
By 2012 there were 10,000 mobile phone thefts reported to the Metropolitan Police, two-thirds of them taken from children aged between thirteen and sixteen.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, The Times, 5 January 2012, p. 4.
In Britain we produce far more fiction about murder every year than there are victims.
The author Bill Bryson cites ‘about 1,000’ fiction books published in the UK every year, which compares to fewer than 800 UK homicides recorded in 2011. As Bryson notes, ‘In reality, the number of murders in Oxford in the last 100 years barely matches the number of people Dexter has bumped off in a mere dozen Inspector Morse novels, and it is almost certainly true that the scale, variety, and ingenuity of homicides in British whodunits vastly exceed anything that happens in the real world.’ Traditional Home, Anglophile column, March 1997. [www.traditionalhome.com/travel_weekendgetaways/distantshores/murder-in-mind_1.html]
Most killings owe less to conspiracy than to happenstance and rage. Half of them are hot-headed, through quarrel, revenge or loss of temper.
There are several accounts of the lack of premeditation in most murders, going back to a seminal Scottish survey in the 1970s.
On the face of it, Americans are decidedly unpleasant. In the first decade of the new millennium, they murdered about 15,000 of each other every year, which is more than five fatalities for every 100,000 citizens.
Ten-year average 2000–2010 taken from Crime in the United States, 1991–2010, FBI Unified Crime Reports, 2011. [http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10tbl01.xls]
The average in England and Wales was 810, a rate of 1.5 per 100,000.
Recorded crime statistics 2002–3 to 2009–10, combined with data from recorded crime statistics 1898–2001/2, Home Office summary tables [http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110220105210/http://rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/recordedcrime1.html]
‘A gun is a tool – the problem is the criminal,’ says the National Rifle Association.
Wayne LaPierre, NRA chief executive, 23 December 2012 (quoted in The Times, 24 December 2012, p. 15).
Two-thirds of US murders are by gunfire. In 2010 around 9,000 people were shot dead in America compared to forty firearm deaths in England and Wales and a handful in Scotland.
Statistical News Release, ‘Homicides, Firearm Offences and Intimate Violence 2010/11: Supplementary Volume 2 to Crime in England and Wales 2010/11’ [http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/science-research-statistics/research-statistics/crime-research/hosb0212/hosb0212snr?view=Binary]
There were 4,220 non-firearm homicides in the US versus 559 in England and Wales and 98 in Scotland.
Crime in the US 2010, Expanded homicide data, FBI Uniform Crime Reports [http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded/expandhomicidemain]
If those figures are adjusted for population differences, Americans are just one-third more murderous than the English and a third less so than the Scots
Adjusted for 2010 census populations based of 54 million (England and Wales) and 309 million (US), making the US 5.72 times more populous. See below for Scotland.
Neat though these statistics are, there are confounding factors, the biggest of which is race. Each year about as many black Americans commit murder as do whites or Hispanics, even though whites and Hispanics make up 87% of the population. This seems to be more about bad habits than skin colour, since in the 1940s and 50s black crime was much lower, despite endemic poverty and discrimination. One prominent theory is that violence is tolerated more in Afro-American society because the collapse of traditional fatherhood. There has long been a matriarchal tradition in black America but the proportion of babies born out of wedlock rose rapidly after the second world war, so much so that the 1965 Moynihan Report warned that family breakdown was hindering economic progress among blacks. The proportion of black children born into fatherless households continued to grow until the end of the millennium. Whether or not the destruction of the nuclear family is the cause of black American aggression, this propensity to violence is tragic fact of life and substantially inflates US homicide rates.
738 US murders compared to versus 559 in England and Wales and 1,007 population-adjusted killings in Scotland
There were ninety-seven homicide victims in in Scotland in 2010/11 which, since Scotland’s population is 5.2 million, is equivalent to over 1,000 victims in England and Wales, which are over ten times more populous. [http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/12/14124940/2]
As the actress Jodie Foster has drily observed, you can kill a person using a gun with less effort than it takes to chew gum.
Jodie Foster interviewed on The Film Programme, BBC Radio 4, 21 December 2007.
Violence tends to affect poorer areas disproportionately and people whose sometimes limited self-control has been further weakened by alcohol or drugs.
When violence was at its peak in the mid-1990s, the British Medical Association claimed drink was a factor in two-thirds of homicides, three-quarters of stabbings and half of all injuries resulting from fights or domestic assault (Alcohol and Crime: Breaking the Link. All-Party Group on Alcohol Misuse, House of Commons, July 1995). An audit in Scottish hospitals found 70 per cent of assaults were linked to alcohol, and violence or intoxication accounted for more than 10 per cent of all those presenting at A&E (Harmful Drinking, Final Report, Understanding alcohol misuse in Scotland, Scottish Emergency Dept Alcohol Audit, 2008). An English survey of over 300 men convicted of assaulting their partners found almost half of them were alcohol-dependent (Elizabeth Gilchrist, Rebecca Johnson, Rachel Takriti, Samantha Weston, Anthony Beech and Mark Kebbell, Domestic violence offenders: characteristics and offending related needs, Findings 217, 2003, Home Office, London). And so it goes on.
This is why the homicide rate in Russia is comparable to that in the United States
Don B. Kates and Gary Mauser, ‘Would banning firearms reduce murder and suicide? A review of international and some domestic evidence’.
At the opposite extreme is Japan. In 2014 while the US recorded 10,945 homicides by shooting, Japan reported six – and in 2015 that dropped to one. In Japan only shotguns and air rifles are allowed and when shotgun cartridges are bought they casings must be brought back to be exchanged for any further ammunition. Ironically, Japan’s strict gun controls were first enforced by Americans after WWII. However, both Japan’s low murder rate and its intolerance of guns reflect a cultural conformity in which all crime is relatively rare. The OECD consistently rates Japan the safest country in the world.
It is sometimes argued that Iceland also has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, and yet has as many guns as the US. Actually, Iceland’s homicide rate is close to the average for western Europe, on a par with France, Denmark, Germany, Greece or Italy. And while almost a quarter of Icelandic families own a firearm – fewer than in the US if not by much – almost all of these are rifles. Roughly 20% of US households have a handgun; fewer than 1.5% of Icelandic homes do. (Homicide figures from the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control; firearm statistics from the University of Sydney.)
Sharp instruments also account for a third of all killings in England and Wales
Sharp instruments account for a third of murders in England and Wales (232 out of 636 in 2010/11) and almost half in Scotland (35 out of 78 in 2010/11). The proportion would be higher if infanticide is discounted. [www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/science-research-statistics/research-statistics/crime-research/hosb0212/hosb0212snr?view=Binary for England and Wales and for Scotland: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/07/05130225/3]
… ‘where the difference between life and death depends on the intervention of a bystander, the accuracy of a blow, the weight of a frying pan, the speed of an ambulance or the availability of a trauma centre’.
From a paper by Gottfredson and Hirschi in 1990 quoted in Reducing Homicide: a review of the possibilities by Fiona Brookman and Mike Maguire, Home Office, London, 2003, p. 5. [http://www.mensaid.com/child_abuse/reducing_homicide-a_review_of_the_possibilities-januar2003.pdf].