Judges’ Censure of Offenders Convicted of Child Sexual Exploitation Material Offenses

Larissa Christensen, PhD, B.Psych & George S. Tsagaris, PhD, LISW-S, MS | September 20 | 1:30-2:30 PM

Topic: Legal, Research | Knowledge Level: Beginner, Intermediate | Location: Room 2584

There is evidence that suggests child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) may not be perceived as a serious crime amongst some members of the public (Warner, 2010). Importantly, sentencing remarks can disseminate formal messages about the harmfulness of a crime. The presenters conducted an exploratory content analysis on the sentencing remarks of 29 offenders convicted of CSEM offenses across a ten-year period in one jurisdiction of Australia, heard by 12 Judges. Most demographics of offenders were similar to the current research. All offenders were male and 41 years-old (on average) at time of sentencing, with heterogeneity in employment (from law enforcement and the legal field, right through to hospitality and retail). Further, most offenders pleaded guilty, were typically sentenced for several CSEM offences, did not have previous CSEM convictions or other convictions, and received a custodial sentence for the current offenses. Alarmingly however, almost all offenders possessed and/or accessed: CSEM with pre-pubescent children, with most cases involving children under the age of three; and CSEM involving the most severe category (bestiality, sadism, or torture of a child). Offender characteristics and Judges’ censure were captured across three themes: (1) offender’s motivations and attempted explanations for offending (specifically: downplay or denial; poor mental health and substance abuse; and addiction), (2) CSEM offenses are not victimless crimes, and (3) disparities in the offender’s public versus private life. The presenters’ findings should be a valuable resource for mental health practitioners, law enforcement, legal professionals, and social workers both within Australia and across the globe.

Presentation Objectives:

·  Explore the censure sentencing Judges impart to child sexual exploitation material offenders and the wider audience

·  Describe the characteristics of individuals convicted of child sexual exploitation material offenses

·  Explore how the messages imparted in the sentencing remarks can be used to inform prevention of child sexual exploitation material offenses

About the Presenters