I became intrigued by this subject following an appearance on Newsnight by CEOP’s former head Jim Gamble, when he explained that one of the first things that CEOP set about doing after it was created was to research the psychology of paedophiles so they could better understand offenders and no doubt identify behavioural and psychological markers. Jim Gamble only alluded to this comprehensive study in passing, remarking that self delusional justification for offending and attempting to portray themselves as the victim in some way were common and known behavioural patterns in paedophiles.
This CEOP research is undoubtedly very useful and it is the kind of academic study that I’d really like to look at but I know that for very obvious reasons, I never will. Nor, without the wealth of data and access to the kind of expertise that CEOP could call on, would I have any chance of recreating such a study but that hasn’t stopped me thinking about the kind of applications such research could be put to.
One such application of paedophile profiling would be the identification of certain ‘offending types’. Naturally, every individual offender must be unique but categorising offenders into types must be a very useful tool because a man can do many things to attempt to disguise his physical appearance but it is almost impossible for him to change his psychological make-up. That psychological make-up may slowly evolve with time but it can’t be changed as simply as it is to wear a hat, grow a beard, or shaving off hair.
If we look at an extreme sexual offender like Sidney Cooke, what offender type would he be, how might an organisation like CEOP categorise him, what designation would he have ? We’ll start with the prefix SO for Sex Offender, then add an S for Sadist, and finally add a number on a scale from 1 to 5, in Cooke’s case 5, as a way of illustrating how extreme his offending was. Using this completely made up system we end up with an offender type for Sidney Cooke which is SO-S-5.
If we look at another sexual offender like Lord Janner based on the known accounts, we end up with a different offender type and designation. Lord Janner sought out what he considered loving relationships with young boys. I’m not in any way attempting to legitimise his offending by using that term, I’m simply trying to identify his psychological delusion. Janner would still have the same SO designation as Cooke but instead we’ll follow that with an PR for ‘pseudo-relationship’ and instead of a 5 we’ll give him a 3, after all despite the fact that Lord Janner was in a ‘pseudo-relationship’ with one boy for almost 2 years, he was not living full time with that boy which must be the extreme. So, using this system we end up with SO-PR-3 as Janner’s offending type.
I have no idea if CEOP or Police forces use a system of offender type designation like this. I suspect they do and I’m sure that it is far more sophisticated than my amateur efforts but what I do know, having followed many trials in the media, that similarities in multiple survivor testimony regarding an offender provides key corroborative evidence at trial. In the trials of Max Clifford (SO-E-3, where E stands for ‘exploiter’) and Dave Lee Travis (SO-E-1) it was the independent descriptions by victims of consistencies in the described offending that seemed key. [Note: this is why it is so important that survivors do not have contact before a trial]
So, what is going on if a known offender with an SO-PR-4 designation (for example) is described by a witness as exhibiting the behaviour consistent with an offender with an SO-S-5 designation ? It must be one of two things, either a) the information known and held by the police is incomplete or b) the witness testimony is inaccurate.
I think the public have in general a very over-simplified understanding of child sexual offenders and there is an inclination to unconsciously group them all together in one big group called ‘paedophiles’. This can lead to assumptions about the type of offending an offender is likely to be capable of. Sidney Cooke is an extreme example and thankfully his offending type is rare though I’ve no doubt that it as not as rare as convictions would suggest.