Stranger Child Abduction in the UK

Report
Craig Collie
University of Portsmouth
Email- [email protected]
 Definitions
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Issues of definition and recording in relation to
stranger child abduction
 Recent
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key findings
A look at some recent findings on stranger child
abduction that affect how we understand the
offence
 Theories
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A quick examination of theory
 Going
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on offending and decision making
forward
Some of the key issues for future examination
 To
begin, lets examine the terms “stranger”,
“child” and “abduction” in turn, as they are
used in the context of this offence.
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Taken to mean no previous relationship or familiarity
First contact- to exclude grooming and “long cons”
First appeared as “stereotypical stranger abduction” in the
literature
In response to public fear and moral panic. This spectre hangs
over the topic.
200-300 stereotypical; 3200-4600 nonfamily abductions; 163,200354,100 estimated family abductions
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Differentiated “family” and “nonfamily” abduction
Soon recognized that “acquaintance” and “stranger”
abduction were different in character.
Acquaintances more associated with grooming behaviour,
in private homes and tend to target younger children;
Strangers with isolated instances, outside home, outdoor
approach, targeting school aged children and teenagers.
Although motive is difficult to prove, it is thought that
stranger abduction is generally a sexual domain offence
Anyone under 18 is the de facto definition
 Research has split children into age categories
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Infants and neonates (newborns) extremely unlikely
to be targeted for sexual offending, more likely to be
targeted for “Maternal desire”
Stranger child abduction rates appear to
increase as children get older, with a slight drop
off at the highest age bracket (Boudreaux et al
1999)
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Combination of lack of guardianship, increasing
autonomy, relative lack of maturity, lack of
awareness, and increasing resemblance to adults.
Younger= better guarded; older= self protection
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Legally defined in many ways and by several names
 Legislation- Child Abduction Act 1984- take or detain a child under 16 without
lawful authority or reasonable excuse- leads to a charge of child abduction
 Common Law- Kidnap- 4 elements- taking of one person by another; by force or
fraud; without consent of person; without lawful authority.
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Essence is taking, moving or detaining a child against their will or without lawful
authority
 -the latter especially necessary with children, as they may go willingly or without
awareness of what is happening.
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Often has other conditions
 -Force or Fraud
 -Temporal conditions- becoming increasingly outdated due to escalation of riskof-harm over time.
 -Spatial Conditions (some jurisdictions, such as California state law, expressly
deny this condition. Can be any distance)
In research studies, they tend to either go by police records, or make their own
generic definition and go through a variety of cases and pick out ones that match,
i.e., Beyer and Beasley (2003)- “the coerced, unauthorized or illegal movement of a
child for the purpose of a criminal act”
-they tend to have some issues or conditions that do not match normal
conceptions.
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.
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“Caretaker Missing”- differences in perspective
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Pendulum effect from caretaker point of view
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-more likely to perceive event as serious at outset
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-afterwards, more likely to dismiss event if nothing happened
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Belief that there is some kind of minimum-time-missing requirement for reporting
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Gallagher et. Al. 2008- Low reporting- 80% of victims disclosed to a caretaker
(teacher, parent, guardian), but only 39.4% of cases were reported to police.
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Differing police filing approaches
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-Proved to be a serious issue for US studies, same for the UK.
“Lost” figures and charges
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-Plea bargaining, especially attractive if avoids child having to testify
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-Abductions subsumed by higher offence, or considered incidental
Figures used combine elements that we might like to examine individually
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-Beasley suggests element of children being too intimidated to report, or
unaware that what happened should be reported.
Offender Index studies- Data for kidnap of 16-18 children and adults combined
Recording as kidnap or child abduction. Convictions for similar behaviour can range
from kidnap, to child abduction, to unlawful detainment.
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Gallagher, Bradford and Pease 2008
Around 1 in every 100 children in North-West England reported an
attempted abduction scenario at some point in their childhood.
In 33 reported cases of abduction (subject to victims perception
and recall):
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Offender Gender- 84.8% male; 9.1% female; 6.1% both present
Offender Age- 84.4% adults; 9.4% young people; 3.1% children; 3.1%
involved multiple age groups
93.8% of cases occurred outdoors
Location- 60% in the street; 6.7% in a field or park; 13.3% in a shop;
20% “other”.
Number of Offenders- 71.9% single offender; 21.9% two offenders; 6.2%
three offenders; 0% 4+ offenders
Child accompaniment- 27.3% were alone; 63.6% were with other
children; 3% were with adults; 6.1% were with other children and
adults.
Note- Newiss (2014) made findings suggesting children have difficulty
differentiating conceptually between strangers and non-strangers, and
even between “well meaning adults” if the children aren’t trained.
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Beasley 2009- US Study- Offending Histories of Stranger
Child Abductors. Useful for overall picture statistics.
25% had no prior history at all.
14% had been previously arrested for kidnapping. 33% for
forcible sex crime. 40% for larceny. 41% for assault, 15%
for robbery, 35% robbery or breaking and entering, and 17%
for motor vehicle offences.
Similar “offender polymorphism” findings made regarding
sexual offenders such as sexual murderers and sexual
aggressors (i.e., by Cusson & Proulx, 2008)
These findings suggest that there is “criminal diversity
among child abductors”, and they are not always
specifically sexual offenders.
The offenders are in the “midst of a chronic criminal
career characterised by property and violent offending”.
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-We will come back to this- it fits in with ideas about
opportunistic offenders
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Erikson & Friendship 2001
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Offender Index Analysis; All child ablution convictions between 1993 and 1995. 191 cases.
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Followed up by examining police records, final sample of 149 offenders.
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Found 82% of all child abductions involved non-familial perpetrator. 18% Parental.
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66% non-familial male, 16% non-familiar female
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60% non-familial abductions involved sexual motivation
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Sexually motivated group had
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highest rates of previous abduction attempts
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Highest level of pre-convictions for sex offences
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Histories of general and violent offending
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Highest mean victim age (as in Boudreaux et al 1999)
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Mean victim age of 10 years; Slight over-representation of female victims (60%)
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Offender mean age 38.66 (S.D. 13.35)
Maternal desire group (12%)
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Female perpetrators; Infant victims (1 y.o. average); Younger offenders 26.27 (SD 9.94)
“Other” non-familial child abductions. Paid attention to low incidence but still interesting motivations seen in
stranger abductions.
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Religious abduction, e.g., by a sect
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Accidental abduction during other crime, i.e., backseat of car
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These “other” offenders tended to have the most persistent violent offending histories
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Similar mean age to sexually motivated group
Specifically did not include “incidental” abductions, i.e., murders that involved abduction, or where the offender
was charged with something more serious.
Radford et al 2011
 In the context of child abuse and neglect
 Survey about whether a child had experienced a
kidnap. Did not extrapolate on circumstances.
 “made to go somewhere, like into a car, by
someone who they thought might hurt them”
 0.2% Under 11’s experienced stranger kidnap
incident in lifetime
 0.9% for 11-17 year olds
 0.9% for 18-24 year olds
 “For the older age groups, unknown adults
(strangers) were the most frequently reported
adult perpetrators outside the family home.”
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Newiss & Traynor 2013
Analysis of 529 cases (year 2011/2, gathered from participating forces)
Found 42% of cases involved stranger perpetrator. This contradicts US stats.
Of this 42%, three quarters were attempted abductions.
Translates to national recordings of approximately 50 completed and 200 attempted
stranger child abductions in the UK per year (Newiss 2014). Around 1/5 of
completed abductions carried out by a stranger.
181 attempted abductions, mean victim age 12, 75% female, 80% white.
Motive only rarely established, but it is thought to be sexual in most cases. This is
consistent with other findings (Boudreaux et al 1999; Erikson & Friendship 2001),
but is not exactly proven.
93% no injury, 11 cases of minor injury.
Almost half involved physical contact, varying from light touch to holding
necessitating a struggle.
91% involved lone offenders
66% involved offender alighting from, being in, or dragging victim to a vehicle
12 cases of completed abduction. 15 victims. 8 victims were either raped, sexually
assaulted, or had clothes removed. Mean victim age 14 for completed abductions
when sexual motive was clear.
All but one case took place in less than 24 hours.
Some other cases involved abduction for ransom, robbery, dispute, and some for
maternal desire.
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Relevant as abduction offending appears to be largely in response to opportunity
Most abductors not preferential child molesters, but situational child molesters,
i.e., they are likely to offend against a variety of targets, and may never have
offended against children even in a long criminal career.
Routine activity states offending tends to occur as offenders (and victims) go about
normal daily business
Convergence of
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Motivated offender. Motivation is key, must be Precipitated; Activated.
Suitable target. Not only vulnerable, but desirable to the offender.
Lack of guardianship
(most recently) lack of caretaker
Guardianship=over target itself; Caretaker=over immediate area
Wortley & Smallbone (2006)- Explains this for sex offenders
Opportunity + dispositional factor= offence likely
 Opportunity + no dispositionals= offence unlikely
 No opportunity + dispositional= create opportunity, or cope in another way
(fantasy/masturbation/other offence against different target).
 No opportunity + no dispositionals= offending should not occur, in fact or in fantasy
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Predatory
 Chronic offenders; adept at recognizing opportunities; adaptable;
calculating. Note: precipitated, usually in response to anger or selfesteem challenge- they do not offend at every chance.
Opportunistic
 General offenders who tend not to offend except upon recognition of
clear opportunity or when suffering a momentary lapse in self control.
Likely to be dissuaded by risk- this makes the child target undesirable.
Situational
 Response to extreme emotional affect, or environmental factors. Tend
to have little to no prior offence history. *Potential to ignore risks.
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Situational Opportunist
Predatory
Challenges
and Obstacles
X*
X
Manipulates
Tempting
Situation
X
Exploits
Exploits
Precipitating
*
Situation
Reacts to
Reacts to
Reacts to
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A combination of developmental problems, situational and personal problems just before
the offence, and a lack of dissuaders before and during the incident.
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Offender Background
 Stable Traits- Temperament, impulsivity, attachment style (e.g., fear of adults, affinity
towards children) etc
 Dynamic Traits- Beliefs, cognitive distortion, maladaptive schema
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Cognitive Distortions- Key- Entitlement, Dangerous World, Children as Sex Objects, Denial
of Harm, uncontrollable/unchangeable desire; Seductive Children.
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Lead Up to the Offence- Life difficulties and “Precipitating” events.
 Event, or series of events, that cause negative affect
 -1 year-Life issues and changes in year leading up to offence
 Things like relationship difficulties; overcommitted to work; unemployment; increasing
onset of fantasy; generalized conflict; perceived rejection.
 -Hours prior
 Alcohol or drug consumption; perceived personal sleight; pornography use; fantasy;
other large distressing event (job loss, bereavement, split up, insult).
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This is thought to “activate” the offender, and cause them to find a target. Predators
begin hunting, others only offend if target is present while they are activated.
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“Maintenance” once activated. Does not guarantee they will offend, or offend
against a child.
Offences are ongoing. Recent theories recognize a need for offenders to maintain
their “precipitated state” (European Online Grooming Project, 2010).
This process may be unwitting
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-reinforce criminal beliefs
-minimize offending
-seek confirmation and affirmation
-ignore dissuaders
-re-interpret negative reinforcement as deviant
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It is thought that a lapse in maintenance can “deactivate” the offender and reintroduce self control. Brings about desistence.
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-Unclear about when an offender might have proceeded so far that they keep going
regardless of second thoughts.
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Alternative explanation is “dissuasion”. The offence is interrupted or made more
difficult and therefore abandoned. All but the most motivated offenders give up,
because the activated phase has passed.
Situational Prevention Principles therefore apply
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Increase Effort (or perception of it)
 Increase Risk (or perception of it)
 Reduce Rewards (or perception of it)
 Remove Excuses- important for disrupting maintenance
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Around 75% of abductions appear to be attempts
Why do some abductions go ahead and others do not?
Which factors are most important?
A threshold?
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A number of interesting findings beg the question of where a
“cut off” is for an attempt being abandoned, and why some
offenders persist despite escalating odds
Gallagher et al (2008)- Offences with other children or adults
present
Finkelhor and Ormrod (2000)- Offenders with multiple
abductees. 14% of cases. Thought that very few of these were
planned.
The process of escalation as opposed to abandonment,
abandonment seems more likely due to high attempt rates.
The chicken and egg question of motivation to offend- the
importance of when motivation to offend manifests, offender
commitment, and how this interacts with the factors that
could prevent the offence.
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My project at UoP taking a chronological approach.
Focuses on reasoning and continuity of affect. “Scene by
scene” narrative analysis. Questioning some assumptions.
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Developmental factors
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Pre-crime factors
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Year lead up; 48 hour lead up
Personal and Situational factors
Focus is on establishing the motive for the offence
Did they go out looking for victims? Was there a series of negative
experiences?
Crime Phase Factors
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Stable traits
Dynamic Traits
Approach, affect, adaptation, attempt
What kinds of things did they notice and pay attention to? How much
did they plan ahead? How much did they adapt? How much effort did
they go to? Did they take any precautions? Manipulation or reaction to
circumstances?
Post crime factors
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Return to normal? How did they come to think about the offence? Was
their negative state resolved?
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