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Sex Offenders: Specialists, Generalists...or Both? A 32-Year Criminological Study

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 40 Issue: 1 Dated: Winter 2000 Pages: 56-67
Keith Soothill; Brian Francis; Barry Sanderson; Elizabeth Ackerley
Date Published
12 pages
This article attempts to determine whether sex offenders are specialists, generalists, or both.
Sexual offending is on the political agenda, but there has been little research focus on the four offense categories--indecent assault against a female, indecent assault against a male, indecency between males, and unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under 16--which together comprise the vast majority of convictions for sexual offenses in England and Wales. The article considers the criminal record (1963-94 inclusive) of the 6,097 males convicted of one of these offenses in 1973. It discusses the results in terms of criminality, heterogeneity, dangerousness, and specialization. By recognizing two levels of analysis--general crime level and sex crime level--the article argues that sex offenders can be both generalists and specialists; they may range widely across a spectrum of offenses but still specialize within sexual offending. Major findings include: (1) Sex offenders differed in their likelihood of being convicted on another occasion; (2) Sex offenders differed in terms of general offending behavior; (3) A significant minority of these offenders were convicted of another dangerous offense against the person during the 32-year observation period; and (4) Sex offenders were much more specialized in their sexual offending behavior than perhaps had been hitherto thought. Tables, notes, references


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