Risk and Recidivism of Registered Sex Offenders

Report from the Small Grant examining the sexual offending patterns of registered sexual offenders in Greater Manchester, to understand risk and recidivism between online and contact offenders.


Risk and Recidivism

Risk and Recidivism



This report provides an overview of the findings of an N8 Policing Research Partnership funded project conducted by Dr Sandra Flynn, Lily Hill, Dr Verity Wainwright, Dr Polly Turner, DCI Katie-Louise Allen. University of Manchester & Greater Manchester Police. The aims of the project were to understand offending patterns of people suspected of committing Indecent Image of Children (IIOC) offences; to examine their history of offending; and to provide an analytical profile. The sample consisted of 188 individuals recorded as committing offences involving the taking, making, possessing, or distributing an indecent image of a child/children, referred to as the target offence between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2022.

Key findings

We analysed 188 criminal cases involving Indecent Images of Children (IIOC).

  • 126 cases (67%) involved the possession of physical or digital indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of a child.
  • Suspects were charged with an offence in 52% of the cases.
  • In 54% of the cases (n=102), the offenders were required to register their details with the police (i.e., were added to the sex offender register), while 86 were subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.
  • Of those who were placed on the sex offender register after the target offence, 56 (55%) went on to commit further sexual offences (IIOC and/or contact offences).
  • 47% (n=89) had a further offence recorded on the PNC after their target offence, of which most committed a further sexual offence.
  • 38 (20%) had no previous or post offending history, the target offence was a ‘one-time’ offence. 


Offenders were charged, summoned, or cautioned in half of the crimes recorded. Evidential difficulties, ever-evolving technology, and the use of sophisticated strategies in avoiding detection, make it challenging for the police to pursue a charge. The implications of this are three-fold. Firstly, there is a substantial number of people known to the police as a potential risk, but they are not prosecuted and managed by the SOMU. Secondly, this has an impact on victims. The permanence and unknown extent of the distribution of images can have profound re-traumatising effects on victims. Thirdly, as many suspects are not charged, the proportion of people who reportedly reoffend is also likely to be significantly underestimated. Therefore, recidivism rates will inevitably be substantially higher than shown in this study and the wider evidence base. Consequently, as the volume of offending continues to increase, the strain on police resources becomes more acute. Investment in finding alternative management solutions is warranted to reduce the impact caused by sexual offending across communities, and also to reduce the burden on SOMU officers and police resources.

Report date: May 2024.

The research was conducted by Dr Sandra Flynn (PI), Dr Verity Wainwright, Dr Polly Turner (Co-Is) , and Lily Hill (Researcher), University of Manchester, in partnership with DCI Katie-Louise Allen, Greater Manchester Police. For more information, please contact Dr Sandra Flynn, Sandra.Flynn@manchester.ac.uk.