ASK THE EXPERT REPORT on child abuse and internet pornography

Ray Wyre, sexual crime consultant and expert on sex
offenders, was our

latest ‘Ask The Expert’. He was one of the
commentators who contributed

to a feature, which appeared in the 15-21 March edition of

Care, (pages 26-27) examining the links between possessing child

and committing child abuse. The feature can also be read by
going to ‘search’

on this website, using ‘Ray Wyre’ as the keywords and ‘last
month’ as the time period.

Question: Could you please give your opinion on
police methods which seem to amount to

touting for allegations of child abuse?

Mike Cox

Ray: I have had discussions with the police and
have been involved in helping them write appropriate letters with
regard to asking individuals, who were in care, whether they would
be seen by the police. These letters should not talk about abuse.
However some enquiries have clearly mentioned abuse in the letters,
and this is seen as unhelpful and wrong.

The word ‘touting’ appears to suggest that it is wrong to
discover whether someone has experienced abuse in the past. I do
not think it is wrong to help people talk, but I am concerned about
how it is done. Having been involved in some cases of false
allegation I am concerned about the role of solicitors,
compensation, and media coverage, which can all lead to a backlash,
where it will be even harder to believe the evidence of those who
have been abused.

The compensation culture was always going to be a problem.
That’s why for years I was calling for a trust fund to be set up
that would be available to all victims of abuse. Solicitors
“touting” for cases also appears to be an issue that needs
addressing. At the moment the people making allegations are being
represented by support groups, and those being accused are also
having their support groups. Both are campaigning. I can see the
problem getting worse until some acceptable, proven and workable
protocols are drawn up.

If not there is a danger of introducing cut off periods where a
person cannot be prosecuted within so many years. Some countries
have this and I believe it does not take into consideration the
difficulties of talking about sexual abuse.

Further discussions have also been taking place that all
interviews with witnesses including those in prison should be

Q. I am a court welfare officer currently
dealing with a case in which the mother has great anxieties about
the father having unsupervised contact with their children (a boy
aged seven and a girl aged three) because he has an interest in
hard-core adult pornography. The police have removed a considerable
amount of material from his home computer, some of which involved
bestiality. Nothing so far found has been of a paedophile nature.
However, the concern being raised is that there may eventually be a
crossover from his interest in extreme adult material to paedophile
material, and then to abuse of his children. Is there such a link?
If so, where do I find relevant research material to support my
arguments in court? I have recommended a risk assessment for this
man, but would feel more confident in court if I was better

Mary Jolley

Ray: As a third of internet users are at some
time or other downloading adult pornography one would have to say
that the linkage between pornography and paedophilia is unproven,
and in fact even if I showed you very clear cases of linkage it
becomes very difficult to prove it due to the fact that the person
may still have abused even if he had not been in contact with the
pornography. A better question might be: “Is their a

However I still have concerns. People who are accessing
pornography can become curious. They can start to click on other
sites, if they move onto newsgroups the material is easily
available. Secondly, a significant part of the adult pornography
industry is the teen sex, schoolgirl uniform etc. Although most of
it is legal there has not been enough work or research done with
regard to whether or not this interest can lead on to look at real
school girls and underage girls, especially as it is so easy to get
access to child pornography if one is motivated to do so.

With child pornography videos now being £300 a tape (recent
client) the usual statement that the provision of the material is
not commercial may soon be disappearing. When clients are actively
seeking others to move on to more expensive material there are
added dangers.

Clearly the moment they move on to this they will be committing
an offence. With regard to this area there are already immense
problems in assessing these people as to whether or not they will
go and abuse. Should for example their own children be examined?
What is the role of the social services department for those who
have been downloading child pornography.

With regard to supervised or unsupervised access this decision
making is a combination of a number of factors and pornography use
would only be a small part of that assessment

Q. What extra precautions should employers be
taking within their recruitment process to avoid paedophiles taking
on posts which allow them access to children?

Roger Thompson

Ray: The aware culture and arena of safety are
made up of a number of elements. Interviewing is only one of them.
Other important aspects are:

The messages an organisation gives

The checks that are made

Staff selection through interview

Protocols that are written.

How staff implement the protocols

The “Receiving End” – an environment where the service user can
express concerns

I have a booklet called “The arena of safety”, and also a
booklet that looks at interviewing of candidates. Please phone me
Roger on 01908 370444 and I can send you copies. (You can have them
free as you asked the question)

They are normally part of a course as literature often needs
explanation. However, interviews are not about “spot the
paedophile”. It’s about giving the job to the best candidate.
Interview panels should be trained. Such training should include
offender information. Understanding how offenders abuse within
organisations and get away with it is essential. However, it is
important to remember that the “arena of safety” is as much to do
with safety for staff as it has to deal with safety for the client
user. The last thing we want is for appropriate adults to move
themselves out of child-care because they are frightened of being
accused of abuse.

Q. I am a social worker employed by a local
authority in the north of England.

I have been allocated a piece of assessment work to be completed
in line with “The Framework for the Assessment of Children in
Need…” (DOH 2000).

The focus of this work is the assessment of potential risk posed
by a man in his forties, who is both a father, and a member of the
teaching profession.

Briefly, a previous pupil, now adult, has come forward with an
uncorroborated disclosure of sexual abuse by him some 20 years ago.
The police have interviewed the woman, and consider credible her
account of repeated sexual touching and inappropriate language
while she was in her early teens.

The Crown Prosecution Service has declined to attempt
prosecution; my remit is to inform professional decisions about the
risk he may pose to either pupils, or his own very young male

The man concerned has denied the allegations, and has, to date
co-operated with our investigation.

I would be indebted for any comment you may have on the
information provided, or any recommended source material which may
help with this specific assessment.


Ray: In working with anyone that has been
accused who is saying they have done nothing it is important that
denial does not allow us to stop working with them.

People who do sexually abuse
children are a heterogeneous group, and there is no psychological
test or device that reliably detects persons who have or have not
or may sexually abuse a child. There is no such thing as an out of
character offender. Abusers come from all walks of life, all
backgrounds, professions and social classes. However, in my
experience there are beliefs and attitudes that are commonly seen
that can highlight areas for concern on the basis of which opinion
can be formed.

It must be emphasised however that
the presence or absence of any of these can in no way prove or
disprove whether a person has abused in the past or will do so in
the future. It is also important that denial is not seen as
something that prevents effective working or appropriate
assessment. Clients who have not committed offences and are not a
risk will clearly deny any allegations and removing children on the
basis of denial, or refusing the man to have access to his children
or keeping him away from home can lead to a serious miscarriage of
justice. All cases much assess the person being accused and within
the assessment find problems that demonstrate the person is a risk
or alternatively find no risk factors.

When one discusses attitudes and behaviour of the person accused
one can sometimes find concerns that need addressing. This is why
it is easy to have deniers groups.

The other important thing to consider is whether or not we are
dealing with hebephilia. (post puberty abuse under the age of
consent,) paedophilia or some other motive for offending. Also with
regard to historical abuse people do change. There are individuals
who did abuse years ago who do not now, and no intervention has
taken place. The problem is that many professionals are pushing all
sex offenders into the fixated paedophile label. There are many
people who abuse children who are not paedophiles.

Even in the education system one knows that there is a different
attitude now to teachers who become sexually involved with a
16-year-old than there was.

There is a cultural change that is, rightly so, affecting
people’s behaviour.

There are number of a number of assessment tools with regard to
assessing risk. There is at the moment debate going on about
clinical assessment and the use of assessment tools. Assessment
tools are useful in contributing to clinical assessment.

I have had a number of clients who have misused and abused their
roles and breached boundaries. They have participated in programmes
that help them establish appropriate boundaries.

If however, no attitude or behavioural problem is established
now. If there is no evidence of worrying behaviour and boundary
violation now, then it is possible that whatever his past perceived
risk was or is, one may feel confident that the risk is low and can
be managed. He will know that the assessment is taking place under
the “balance of probability” rather than “beyond reasonable

Q. Does the law need to be tightened up to
prevent paedophiles using the internet for grooming children for
sexual abuse?


Q. Should internet service providers take
responsibility for the content of their sites?

Paul Burstow MP

Liberal Democrat health spokesperson

(The 13-year-old victim of Patrick Green, a clerk from
Buckinghamshire who was convicted recently of having sex a girl he
met through a chatroom, was from Burstow’s constituency of Sutton
in Surrey)

Ray: I believe that the law should be passed
that if a person posing as a child arranges to meet that child, so
that they are committing an offence. Whatever the motive, to
deceive and place a child in a risk situation is abusive in itself.
The adult cannot pretend that it was only a game, or that they had
no devious intent. Why the secrecy?

Are we preparing for the new internet access that does not use
computers? How will we legislate for the material accessed through
a phone, and television where the same material will be available,
but with no saving of the material. Internet service providers will
then have to be responsible otherwise there will be no way of
telling what has been accessed.

I believe that the problem of abuse on the internet should be
tackled in a number of ways.

Recognition that no system will be safe. An adult can easily
form a relationship with a child, even with the parents’
permission, and with no understanding or vigilance by the parents,
the child is abused.

Recognition that child pornography is a permanent record of
sexual abuse. That the picture is an instant of time and should not
detract us from the fact that if the child can appear in the photo
being abused the child is already in a situation of corruption and
further abuse. Abuse is about relationships of abuse and resources
should be placed to prevent the abuse. The photograph is the
evidence. Finding the child and stopping the abuse, should be the

When there are sentences they are not usually very heavy because
of bargaining over guilty and not guilty pleas. How do you give
longer sentences to a person who looks at the material on the
internet than the person who is hands on sexually abusing?

I make several recommendations:

Policing the internet

Police proactive on the internet. More resources to the police
for proactive child abuse investigations.

Developing technology in an attempt to get ahead of those who
develop technology in order to cover their crime. Technology
affects crime.

The development of software that helps the consumer protect the

Legislation with regard to dealing with ISPs. They could be seen
as possessing the child pornography.

A media campaign against those ISPs who will not make changes,
and encouragement to the public not to use those ISPs.


With an international study showing that a third of internet
users access pornography and a recent statement from an Internet
watch company that 50 per cent of British users access pornography,
an education system is needed with regard to children.

Under the Children Act it is an offence for children to see
adult pornography. How is this being legislated with the

However, many of the guidelines do not give the information that
we “should not trust children”. What do we think they will access
when they are on their own and we do not restrict access? (What was
the first word you looked up in a dictionary?) The internet can be
a dangerous dictionary.

Research needed with regard to how many people who look are also
hands on abusing.

Identifying whether there is an escalation in the behaviour from
fantasy to offending

Attempts to standardise European legislation.

An education programme or adults. It was only in 1988 that
possession of child pornography became a criminal offence. There
are different motives for accessing material. It is not just the
paedophile who ends up downloading child pornography

Also do adults know what sites their children have been to? Do
they know what newsgroups and closed user groups are? Checking is
as important as having firewalls. Many children have more knowledge
on how to disguise and cover-up than their parents do.

An awareness that it is not just words like ‘sex’ that access
pornography in searches. Recently a search on bunnies would have
accessed a pornographic site.

Awareness that advertising of pornographic images before credit
cards are used can be very graphic.

There are many other guidelines given by internet watch
organisations, but remember the guidelines are not enough.

Ray Wyre

01908 370444










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