Added: September 5, 2015 – Last updated: September 5, 2015


Author: Louise A. Jackson

Title: Child sexual abuse in England and Wales

Subtitle: Prosecution and prevalence 1918-1970

Journal: History & Policy: Policy Papers

Volume: -

Issue: -

Year: June 18, 2015

Pages: -

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century | English History, Welsh History | Types: Child Sexual Abuse


Link: History & Policy (Free Access)


Author: Louise Jackson, School of History, Classics & Archaeology, University of Edinburgh


»* Across much of the twentieth century the criminal justice system was unable to cope with or respond adequately to the reporting of child sexual abuse.
* Opportunities to improve the law were missed and action on behalf of children was alarmingly slow.
* Whilst the actual prevalence of child sexual abuse in the historical past is unknowable (especially as we move further out of living memory), it is clear that it has always been significantly under-reported.
* Legislation developed in the nineteenth century, which reflected Victorian moral values, was adapted inadequately to deal with offences against children.
* This created loop-holes in the law. It also made it impossible for politicians, policy-makers and campaigners to monitor increases in sexual offences against children using criminal justice statistics. This policy paper represents the first major historical analysis of criminal justice statistics on child sexual abuse for a broad period of the twentieth century.
* In excess of 500 people were dealt with by the courts per year during the 1920s, rising incrementally to over 5000 by the 1960s.
* Throughout, however, this represented merely the tip of an iceberg. It is likely that the ten-fold increase was a result of changes in police and criminal justice procedure (enabling more cases to be reported and recorded) rather than an increase in prevalence.
* Whilst the number of cases reported to the police increased incrementally across the period, evidence suggests there was a significant decline in the proportion that resulted in guilty verdicts.« (Source: History & Policy Policy Papers)


  Legal frameworks 1900-1960
  Legal loopholes and the Indecency with Children Act 1960
  Counting and measuring: the problem of prevalence
  Conviction rates: the conversion of 'cases known' to 'persons found guilty'
  Further Reading
  About the author

Wikipedia: Child sexual abuse