Producers of indecent images of children : a qualitative analysis of the aetiology and development of their offending patterns

Sheehan, Valerie (2016) Producers of indecent images of children : a qualitative analysis of the aetiology and development of their offending patterns. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


The term ‘producers of IIOC’ refers to individuals who create or are involved in the creation of indecent images of children. This thesis is a qualitative analysis of 22 interviews undertaken with individuals who produced IIOC.

The production of IIOC is not a new phenomenon. However, producers of IIOC are a group about which little is known, even though they supply a large market. With the advancement of modern technology and the development of the internet, IIOC has become more readily available and easier to produce. Accordingly, it is important to gain a greater understanding of those who create such material in the interests of prevention, child safeguarding and detection. Law enforcement and the legal system worldwide are chasing the ever-advancing means of sexually abusing and exploiting children. Research and safeguarding organisations regularly highlight the exponential number of new IIOC available and the apparent increasing demand for such material. The low-age range of victims of IIOC and extreme abuse being perpetrated have been noted in seized material, and live streaming of child sexual abuse is a concerning development.

The participants in this study emerged as a heterogeneous group in terms of social demographics. Their early life experiences were marked by prevalent issues such as neglect, abuse and exposure to violence. A large proportion of them had never had a long-term adult relationship and many others were either separated or divorced. Their grooming techniques were many and varied, and they presented as being able to adapt their grooming process depending upon the environment and victim. IIOC of both known and stranger victims were produced, demonstrating a variation in the relationships between perpetrators and the children who were exploited.

The methodology employed to produce IIOC was examined, covering both remote and adjacent producers, as well as those who were covert about their behaviour. The cognitive distortions that supported the behaviour suggest minimising of harm and distancing techniques. The function of the production behaviour was not found to be exclusively sexual and included a variety of other motivating factors, ranging from commercial gain to social status. However, all participants acknowledged a sexual arousal to children.

This research has found that the process of producing IIOC appears to be evolving. The advancement of technology, in particular the internet, makes it easier to produce IIOC and share such material with others. As sex offenders seem to be capitalising on new equipment and the increasingly mainstream culture of photographing and recording almost unreservedly, so too must law enforcement and front-line professionals keep pace. Recognising that production of IIOC may be an aspect of an individual’s sexually exploitative behaviour, even when there is initially no apparent evidence, is essential. It appears that it may be an overlooked or undetected area of offending and in turn, not dealt with in assessment, intervention and safeguarding. Future research is advisable to obtain a greater understanding of individuals who produce IIOC, in order to prevent, deter, and deal with the behaviour, as well as to help their victims.

SheehanValerie - DProf Policing full thesis.pdf - Published Version

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