Acts of Abuse: Sex Offenders and the Criminal Justice System

Acts of Abuse: Sex Offenders and the Criminal Justice System

Acts of Abuse: Sex Offenders and the Criminal Justice System

Acts of Abuse: Sex Offenders and the Criminal Justice System


Sexual crime is a topic of massive public concern. Yet the debate over its causes and the appropriate responses of the criminal justice system is often fuelled by ignorance and prejudice, with little understanding of the reality of sexual crime.
Acts of Abuseexplores the response of the criminal justice system to this important issue. Its author, Adam Sampson, examines the existing research about the causes of rape and child abuse, the number of offences being committed, and the policy of the courts. He then examines in detail the responses of the probation service and the prison system to the increased number of offenders with which they are being required to deal.
Written by a prominent critic of the British penal system, this is the first comprehensive survey of the phenomenon of sexual crime in the British penal context. It will appeal to students and all those with an interest in issues relating to crime and justice.


The starting point for any investigation into the penal response to sexual offending must be the theoretical background to the phenomenon. Three questions must be answered. What do we mean by sexual offending? What causes individuals to commit sexual offences? and are such offenders amenable to treatment?

Posing these questions immediately risks being embroiled in heated academic debate. Definitions and explanations of sexual crime are the focus for acrimonious discussion among psychologists, biologists and sociologists, and the differing academic and political perspectives from which they approach the problem often appear to render any meaningful and balanced debate impossible.

This is not just an academic argument, but one crucial to any critique of penal policy. Attempts to assess the true level of sexual crime require some agreement on those acts that are to be defined as sexual offences. Questions about the causes of offending and the treatability of offenders have a direct impact on the proper policy of courts towards sexual offenders and on the proper role of the prisons and probation service. Indeed, it is arguable that it is because these questions have not been carefully examined that recent penal policy towards sex offenders has been so disjointed.

basic definitions

The first question is: What do we mean by a sexual offence? Superficially, the answer is obvious. the term ‘sex offending’ denotes those activities involving sex which are deemed to be outside the law. However, the law relating to sexual behaviour is often confused. For many years the precise legal status of rape within marriage has been a matter for considerable debate. in

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