Trajectories in online child sexual exploitation offending in Australia

Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice, No. 524 January 2017

Krone, Tony, & Smith Russell G.


  • Note:
    CSE = child sexual exploitation
    CEM = child exploitation material
  • A PDF version of this article is here: krone__smith_2017.pdf

Continuing rapid change in information and communication technologies and how these are used raise the prospect that the characteristics and offending patterns of offenders will continue to changeover time. The role of CSE offending behaviour as a predictor of ongoing sexual threat is an importantarea for research. However, while a history of online non-production CEM offending alone may indicate online non-production CEM recidivism, it does not necessarily predict contact or grooming offending.

Effective responses to online CSE involving CEM or grooming offences, will require efforts to, initially, minimise the opportunities for criminal behaviour and disrupt notions of the apparent ease and anonymity of offending. The extent to which offenders can hide their offending from law enforcement on the internet is a major threat to achieving these outcomes. In addition, the creation of communities of interest for CEM offenders and the promotion of criminal CEM must be minimised.

The results of this study emphasise the importance of offender networking in connection with contact offending. The possible role of networking in escalating offending behaviour from non-production CEM offences to the production of CEM and grooming or contact offending would be a potentially valuable area for intensive study. Such research is particularly important, given law enforcement agencies are now seeing the emergence of a trend involving the production of ‘new’ CEM as a means to gain access to CEM offender networks.

Despite the limitations of the data used in this study, the findings are an important starting point for increasing our understanding of online CSE offending, and how such offending fits into the larger and more complex mosaic of CSE offending on a global scale.