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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

25 APR 2016

Is criminalising children’s sexual behaviour counterproductive?

Is criminalising children’s sexual behaviour counterproductive?
Laura Janes, SolicitorLegal Director, Howard League for Penal Reform

Keywords: Children – sexual offences – harmful sexual behaviour – youth justice system – recidivism – treatment

Criminal justice responses to concerns about child sexual exploitation increase the risk of children being criminalised for sexual offences. The rates of prosecution and conviction of children aged 10 - 17 in respect of sexual offences against children is high compared to adults. The author’s research considers the evolution of some of the legal provisions designed to protect children. Qualitative interviews with ten children in the criminal justice system with histories of harmful sexual behaviour and with 10 associated professionals were conducted to ascertain their experiences. The research, set against low recidivism rates for children with histories of sexual offending, suggests that there are aspects of the criminal justice system that are counterproductive in cases of children with harmful sexual behaviour.

This article has been accepted for publication in Child and Family Law Quarterly in Issue 3, Vol 28, Year 2016. The final published version of this article will be published and made publicly available here 24 months after its publication date, under a CC-BY-NC licence.

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