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Harmful sexual behaviour by children and young people: Expert Group report

This report sets out proposals from the Expert Group on Preventing Sexual Offending Involving Children and Young People to improve prevention and early intervention in response to harmful sexual behaviour involving children and young people.

172 page PDF

4.0 MB

172 page PDF

4.0 MB

Harmful sexual behaviour by children and young people: Expert Group report

172 page PDF

4.0 MB




3. Hackett et al 2016

4. The draft Remit used the term 'sexual offending'. At its first meeting the Group agreed that the phrase Harmful Sexual Behaviours (HSB) should be substituted to reflect that the circumstances of many harmful sexual behaviours experienced by children and young people do not meet criteria applied by the criminal law, before statutory authorities require to intervene and support a child or young person.

5. Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) is underpinned by common values and principles which apply across all aspects of working with children. GIRFEC supports families by making sure that children and young people can receive the right help at the right time from the right people. More information about GIRFEC may be found at Annex H.

6. Smith (2014)

7. See Chapter 5 for explanation of how this figure is reached




11. See Annex A for further information about existing frameworks and strategies that contribute to prevention, and responses around HSB involving children and young people.

12. Scottish Government (2014), currently under revision and due for publication later in 2019

13. See Annexes A and G for further information about Equally Safe.

14. See Chapter 4 for further discussion of Gendered Analysis

15. Action 1.22 of the Equally Safe delivery plan

16. See Annex L for further information on FRAME and CARM

17. See Annex B for examples of age differences seen in different pieces of legislation

18. Scottish Government (2014) Framework for Risk Assessment, Management and Evaluation for Local Authorities and Partners for Children and Young People under 18. Page 22

19. Which was variously used to mean all instances of alleged incidents of a sexual nature/incidents where a report had been made to the police/incidents where there had been a prosecution/incidents where there had been a conviction

20. See section on Peer on Peer in chapter 4

21. This definition of HSB is based on that used by the NSPCC and Professor Hackett; "sexual behaviours expressed by children and young people under the age of 18 years old that are developmentally inappropriate, may be harmful towards self or others and/ or be abusive towards another child or young person or adult". The work of the Group did not include consideration of harm caused by or to adults by those under 18, as it was not part of the remit.

22. Examples of HSB are contained in Annex G. The Brook Traffic Light Tool (see Chapter 3).

23. At its first meeting, the Group agreed to approach the work under the primary, secondary and tertiary headings described by Professor Simon Hackett (Durham University). See diagram in Chapter 6.

24. See Chapter 3

25. See Chapter 4

26. See Chapter 5

27. See Chapter 6

28. See Chapter 6

29. See Chapter 4

30. See Annex C for some of the materials examined by members of the Group

31. Set out in Annex D

32. See Chapter 8

33. See Annex E for list of invitees

34. McCarlie 2009


36. King-Hill (2018) Reducing Harmful Sexual Behaviours in Children and Young People Through Training: A realistic Evaluation of the Evidence, Success and Transfer of the Brook Traffic Light Tool. Under Review for Publication.

37. Kelly and Karsna (2017, updated 2018) Measuring the scale and changing nature of child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation; Scoping report. CSA and London Metropolitan University. A review of key data sources, estimated that 15% of girls / young women, and 5% of boys / young men experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 16. In every prevalence study included in the report, at least 90% of the perpetrators were male.

38. See, for example, Scottish Government (2014) Scottish Social Attitudes Survey: Attitudes to violence against women in Scotland

39. Kelly (2016) The conducive context of violence against women and girls

40. Coy et al (2013) "Sex without consent, I suppose that is rape": how young people in England understand sexual consent. A report was commissioned for the Office of the Children's Commissioner's Inquiry into child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups

41. Marston and Lewis (2014) Anal heterosex among young people and implications for health promotion: a qualitative study in the UK BMJ Open

42. Johnson and Doonan 2006:113

43. Radford (2012)

44. Hackett et al., 2013

45. Kendall-Tackett, Meyer Williams, and Finkelhor, 1993; Friedrich, Davies, Feher, and Wright, 2003; Friedrich, Trane and Gully, 2005

46. Seto and Lalumière, 2010

47. Growing Up Neglected

48. Friedrich, 2001, 2003; Friedrich, Davies, Feher, and Wright, 2003; Schwartz, Cavanaugh, Pimental, and Prentky, 2006.

49. See section on Young People with Additional Needs for additional information

50. Smallbone et al, 2015

51. Allardyce et al, 2016

52. Hackett, 2014

53. McKillop et al, 2015

54. Rich, 2011

55. Righthand et al, 2001

56. Barbaree et al, 1998

57. Marshall and Barbaree, 1990

58. Scottish Public Health Network 'Polishing the Diamonds'
( at para 3.3)

59. The Interventions for Vulnerable Youth project was established in 2013 in order to promote best practice in forensic mental health risk assessment and management for young people in Scotland who present a serious risk of harm to others.

60. Vaswani, 2018

61. Hutton and Whyte, 2006 Children and young people with harmful sexual behaviours: First analysis of data from a Scottish sample. Journal of Sexual Aggression, July 2006. The sample size was 189, 60% boys and 40% girls.

62. Radford et al, 2012

63. Hackett, Phillips, Masson and Balfe, 2013; Hutton and Whyte, 2006; Finkelhor, Ormrod and Chaffin

64. Silovsky and Niec, 2002

65. Silovsky and Bonner, 2003

66. In psychology, 'pathological' behaviours arise in individuals as a result of enduring patterns of thought, and emotion that negatively affect their ability to adjust to behaviour considered normal in society but potentially cause extreme and unacceptable behaviours.

67. Chapter 6, Working with Children and Young People who have Displayed Harmful Sexual Behaviour, Allardyce and Yates (2018)

68. This term is often interchanged with 'cyber-enabled'.

69. Quayle 2017

70. See Annex B for examples of Scottish legislation

71. Houck et al., 2014; Lunceford, 2011

72. Lee and Crofts, 2015

73. Powell and Henry (2014)

74. NSPCC, 2017. A sample size of 275 under 18s

75. The NSPCC (2017) definition of technology-assisted harmful sexual behaviour (TA-HSB) is "one or more children engaging in sexual discussions or acts - using the internet and/or any image-creating/sharing or communication device - which is considered inappropriate and/or harmful given their age or stage of development. This behaviour falls on a continuum of severity from the use of pornography to online child sexual abuse."


77. Hollis and Belton, 2017

78. HALT, 2019

79. See chapter 6 for information on primary prevention practice on internet safety

80. Martellozo et al, 2016

81. For example see the information on Childline in Annex F

82. adapted from McNeish and Scott, 2018

83. Hackett et al. 1998, Shaw et al. 2000, Beckett 2006, Allardyce and Yates 2009, Ryan 2010

84. Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ) 2019

85. Bagley, 1992; James and Neil, 1996; Hackett, 2013; Manocha and Mezey, 1998

86. Tudiver and Griffin 1992; O'Callaghan 1998; Murphy 2003; Bates and Popple 2017

87. Contact HSB requires physical interaction (i.e. physical contact between the individuals concerned)

88. Radford et al, 2011

89. Hackett et al, 2016

90. Online Peer on Peer Abuse; A national survey for Head teachers and Safeguarding Leads in Scotland Phippen, Bond and Tyrell 2018,

91. In this research, peer on peer was taken to mean a child or young person under 18 involving another child or young person under 18

92. More information from Childline is available at Annex G

93. See Annex G for information on the confusion that children and young people report to Childline

94. In the US, in approximately 35% of cases of sexual abuse where victims were 0-18 yrs, perpetration was by other children and young people. For cases in which victims were 0-12 yrs, frequency of perpetration by other children and young people increased to 50% (Finkelhor et al, 2009). In Australia, police data revealed that 9-16% of child sexual abuse was committed by other children and young people (Boyd and Bromfield, 2006).

95. This is because of the requirement for prosecutors to proceed only with cases that meet the high test of having corroborated evidence providing proof beyond reasonable doubt

96. Justice Analytical Services (2018) Recorded crime in Scotland 2017-18.

97. None of the charges were part of the National Statistics category 'crimes associated with prostitution'.

98. All crimes includes crimes by adult accused

99. An increase from 38% in 2013-14 to 51% in 2016-17

100. Arguably parts of this section could have been inserted into Chapters 4 or 6; but, like much else when dealing with HSB involving children and young people, there are considerable overlaps and it is perhaps helpful to see the various elements that emerged together rather than split among chapters.

101. This equated to 266 of the 519 charges reported during that time (51% of the total number of charges).

102. 'Complainer' is the legal term for someone who has allegedly been the victim of a crime even if they are not the person who made the allegation.

103. The ages of accused relate to the entire 96 cases reported to COPFS (some may have been jointly reported to SCRA), The ages of complainers shown relate only to the 65 cases in which the age of every complainer was extracted and recorded for analysis. In cases involving large numbers of complainers (typically cases involving indecent images) the age of each complainer was not available (it may be that the identities of the complainers was not able to be established but the fact that the images were of children could be proved) .

104. These details were unavailable for 11 of the 96 cases. This information is based on 85 cases.

105. This echoes the findings of the NSPCC research (the Turn the Page Report), previously discussed in chapter 4.

106. The sample of cases examined in more detail indicates that young people are sometimes being charged in relation to consensual online sexual activity online. This was one of the concerns expressed by children's organisations during the consultation of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.

107. The sample size was 119 individuals

108. It is important to note that some referrals may be missing as recording dates back only to 2003. This means that children aged 15 or 16 years of age in 2016-17 who were subject of referrals during infancy will be missed.

109. Information about this is at Annex G.

110. This is partly because the different focus of each organisation leads to data being collected (and terminology used) in different ways across statutory organisations and by charities and researchers; and also because of the lack of agreement about how data should be collected and recorded by statutory authorities.

111. From Professor Simon Hackett, Durham University

112. Definitions for primary, secondary and tertiary prevention are provided in chapter 1.

113. RSHP is discussed more fully in the Curriculum for Education section of this chapter.

114. World Health Organisation (2010) page 34

115. Equally Safe, page 22

116. An internet search on internet safety carried out by Parenting Across Scotland produced 116 million results

117. Duane and Morrison, 2004

118. Houghton, C. et al (2018) Everyday Heroes Gender Inequality and Societal Attitudes Report





123. See Annex G for further detail of the programme and evaluation

124. In Dumfries and Galloway; Dundee and Angus; East Ayrshire; Edinburgh; Fife; Forth Valley; Grampian; Highland; Glasgow; Lanarkshire; Orkney; Perth and Kinross; Scottish Borders; and Shetland.

125. Children and parents: Media use and attitudes report 2018


127. Halpern, 2015

128. Shultz et al., 2007

129. Ringrose et al, 2012

130. Insight Gathering Project: The multi-agency Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Managed Clinical Network. Dr Colin Morrison and Ross Robertson

131. Figures taken from National Registers of Scotland mid-year estimate for 2017, published April 2018

132. Teacher numbers taken from annual census of pupils and teachers in publicly funded schools in Scotland, taken on 19 September 2018, published 11 December 2018 (corrected 16 January 2019), and from annual census of Scottish Council of Independent Schools, taken on 7 September 2018. Professional local authority social worker numbers taken from SSSC Local authority post types 2017, published 26 October 2018; Police Scotland Officer numbers taken from the Police Scotland Officer Numbers Quarterly Fact Sheet, Q3 31 December 2018. Numbers of hospital medical practitioners and GPs taken from NHSS ISDS quarter ending 30 September 2018 (published 4 December 2018). Nursing and midwifery (qualified) workforce statistics taken from NHSS ISDS quarter ending 31 March 2019 (published 4 June 2019).

133. Archer 2017

134. Duane and Morrison 2004

135. A child's plan is part of GIRFEC. It is available when a child needs a range of extra support planned, delivered and coordinated. It will explain what should improve for the child, the actions to be taken, and why the plan has been created, and is managed by a lead professional.

136. Allardyce et al, 2018

137. "Improving the Statutory Regulation of Consensual Sexual Behaviour Between Adolescents in Scotland". School of Law, College of Social Sciences, University of Glasgow

138. The Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill 2019 was passed by the Scottish Parliament and increases the age of criminal responsibility to 12. It received Royal Assent in June 2019.

139. If the Reporter were to bring the child to a children's hearing, the grounds for doing so could not be on the basis that the child had committed an offence - as they were under 12 - but would need to be on alternative grounds. In terms of section 67(2)(m) of the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011: "the child's conduct has had, or is likely to have, a serious adverse effect on the health, safety or development of the child or another person".


141. Known as the Assessment Triangle and based on the 2000 Department of Health Framework.

142. This issue of adequate assessment reports is reflected in the experience at the IVY project who see cases referred to them where proper assessments are absent.

143. As set out in the Lord Advocate's Guidelines to the Chief Constable on the Reporting to Prosecutors Fiscal of offences alleged to have been committed by children.

144. For example, where there is a repeated pattern of abusive behaviours and the family is otherwise unwilling to engage, or where the prosecutor considers that certain disposals only available in the criminal justice system are required, such as notification requirements relating to the Sex Offenders Register.

145. Rigby, Whyte, and Schinkel (CYCJ, 2014) Young People and MAPPA in Scotland.

146. MAPPA is the framework which introduced a set of statutory partnership working arrangements across the public authorities who manage offenders in Scotland.

147. Thematic Review of the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Crimes 2017

148. Rigby, Whyte, and Schinkel (CYCJ, 2014) Young People and MAPPA in Scotland

149. Vulnerable Witnesses (Scotland) Acts 2004 and 2014


151. See Annex J

152. Tudiver and Griffin 1992; O'Callaghan 1998; Murphy 2003; Bates and Popple 2017


154. The Scottish Government is currently reviewing the PVG and disclosure systems. The Protection of Vulnerable Groups and the Disclosure of Criminal Information consultation ( was launched in April 2018. The Scottish Government has acknowledged that change is needed in the disclosure of childhood offending behaviour and has proposed that this should no longer be disclosed automatically or without opportunity for review. A Disclosure Bill is anticipated in the current parliamentary session. In addition, the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill raises the age of criminal responsibility to 12, meaning that pre-12 behaviour will no longer be disclosable as conviction information. The Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill proposes changes to the self-disclosure period for juvenile offenders.


156. See Annex K for further information on IVY

157. Murphy, 2018


159. See Annex L for further information on FRAME and CARM

160. Risk Assessment Tools Evaluation Directory (RATED)


162. Only one specialist service remains in Scotland, which covers Glasgow. Less than one third of the country currently has dedicated youth justice teams

163. A branch of psychology that analyses how the brain and other aspects of human biology influences behaviours, thoughts and feelings.

164. The survey did not ask about HSB caused by another child or young person. It focussed on the experiences of these young people as victims of HSB from adults.

165. Image provided by Stuart Allardyce, adapted after Cullen, Eck and Lowenkamp (2002)


167. LCSBs are similar to CPCs

168. The group comprised representatives from the Child Protection Committee Chairs group, Social Work Scotland, The Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice, COSLA, Education Scotland, Stop It Now! Scotland and NSPCC

169. Professional roles included: Child Protection or Public Protection Lead Officer; Social Work Manager; NHS Child Protection Nurse; Police; Council Training and Development Officers; Education Support Officer; Education Development Officer; Education Child Protection Lead; Senior Education Manager; Educational Psychologist; Health and Wellbeing Officer; Third Sector Organisation Manager; Social Worker; Gender Based Violence Co-ordinator; Policy Advisor; Head of Service for Children's Services and Education or equivalent; CPC Administrator; and Independent Reviewing Officer.

170. (pp.37-28)

171. 63% of responses referred to the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) programme in secondary schools as a primary prevention initiative. 63% of responses reported input from Women's Aid, Rape Crisis or equivalent agency into secondary schools about consent, healthy relationships, bullying, sexual violence prevention, identifying violence, gender, sexualisation, impacts and support, social media, and 'What is sexual violence'? 42% reported input internally or from external agencies on online safety. 33% on CSE.

172. e.g. LAAC children; adoptive and kinship care settings; children with ID or who have autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) - See Chapter 4.

173. Online Peer on Peer Abuse; A national survey for Headteachers and Safeguarding Leads in Scotland Professor Andy Phippen; Professor Emma Bond; Katie Tyrrell June 2018 University of Suffolk


175. See information on the work of IVY in supporting professionals across Scotland in Chapter 6 and at Annex J.


177. Good Shepherd; St Mary's Kenmure; Rossie

178. The survey gathered responses from young people across the Young Scot target age range (11-25). Responses were filtered by school age (11-18) and non-school age (19-25). Respondents aged 19-25 only made up 7% of the total respondent sample, meaning that removing these responses did not impact the results.

179. CEOP is the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre which is part of the National Crime Agency (NCA), the UK lead agency in respect of cybercrime. In Scotland the NCA operates on authorisation from the Lord Advocate and in cooperation with Police Scotland.

180. Rape And Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre Perth and Kinross.

181. Focus groups were held in HMYOI Polmont (8 males; aged 16-18) and within secure care (10 males, 11 females; aged 15-17) and residential care (1 male; aged 15, 3 females; aged 16)