Child homicide: generating victim and suspect risk profiles

Date03 August 2015
Published date03 August 2015
AuthorJason Roach,Robin Bryant
Child homicide: generating victim and
suspect risk profiles
Jason Roach and Robin Bryant
Dr Jason Roach is a Reader
at Applied Criminology Centre,
University of Huddersfield,
Huddersfield, UK.
Professor Robin Bryant is
based at Department of Law &
Criminal Justice Studies,
Canterbury Christchurch
University, Canterbury, UK.
Purpose In England and Wales, on average one child every week is a victim of homicide. The purpose of
this paper is to explore whether different victim-risk profiles and suspect variables can be differentiated for
specific victim ages.
Design/methodology/approach This paper presents a preliminary analysis of more than 1,000 child
homicides committed in England and Wales between 1996 and 2013, from data provided through the
Homicide Index. Statistical techniques such as cluster analysis were used to identify specific victim-risk
profiles and to analyse suspect variables according to the age of victim.
Findings The findings present a clearer picture of the risk-age relationship in child homicide, whereby
several specific risk profiles are identified for specific child ages, comprised of crime variables including; likely
victim and suspect demographics, the most likely circumstances of the homicide and methods of killing.
Using similar techniques, a number of tentative clusters of suspects implicated in child homicide are also
described and analysed, with suggestions of further analysis that might prove of value.
Practical implications The practical implications cannot be understated. For those professionals working
in the fields of child protection and criminal investigation the identification of risk profiles promises to provide
a back-cloth with which to practice when confronted with complex and distressing child homicide scenarios.
This research promises most to those currently training in related professions.
Originality/value Although the statistical level of risk has been linked with the age of a child
(with younger children being most vulnerable to killing by a parent or step-parent and older children most
vulnerable to killing by acquaintances and strangers), extant research is yet to progress beyond
the identification of broad age-risk categories. The paper concludes with a discussion of the likely
implications for those charged with reducing and investigating child homicide and outlines the possibility
of future research.
Keywords Homicide, Victim-suspect risk, Child homicide, Two-step cluster analysis, Risk profiles,
Paper type Research paper
Homicide is the killing of a human being by another human being[1]. Although not all homicide
is illegal, with lawful killingbeing that sanctioned by a state (e.g. capital punishment and
counter-terrorism shoot to kill policies) only that deemed illegal is with dealt with here.
The Criminal law in England and Wales defines unlawful homicide as comprising the crimes of
murder, manslaughter (including involuntary) and infanticide, but also includes the less common
causing death by dangerous or careless driving[2]. Infanticide is defined under English law in
section 1 of the Infanticide Act 1938 as the killing of a child under the age of 12 months by its
mother when the balance of the mothers mind was disturbed and where the death was
caused by a wilful act or omission (in effect diminished responsibility). Prosecutions for the
crime of infanticide are rare. It is much more likely that the killing of a child under 12 months will
Received 5 April 2015
Revised 9 June 2015
Accepted 9 June 2015
DOI 10.1108/JCP-04-2015-0013 VOL. 5 NO. 3 2015, pp. 201-215, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 2009-3829
PAG E 20 1

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