Child Homicide and Inverstigation of the Criminal's Mind
When one’s death is caused by another, it is termed as homicide. According to the free dictionary, the victim could be an adult or a minor. When a minor is the victim of such an act, it is termed as child homicide. The free dictionary also states that child homicide victims are by law individuals who are considered to be minors and under the care of an adult, whether parents, guardians or any other caregivers. Like any form of homicide, child homicide could be the result of recklessness, negligence or accident. Child homicide remains a major area of focus in crime prevention. Within the UK, the main perpetrators of child homicide are parents, relatives, strangers, particularly paedophiles and, in very rare instances, other minors (Radford et al. , 2011). In the past decade alone, the UK has experienced numerous cases of child homicide. The victims of these cases have ranged from minors to adults, but have mostly involved parents and caregivers as the key perpetrators of the offences. In 2017, a child survived attempted strangulation at the hands of the mother (Stroud, 2017). Investigations showed no prior threats on the life of the child or the mother. In the same year, another child suffered a stab leading to death, while yet another one died at the hands of a sexual predator. The previous years were no different with investigations into the killing of four children by a mother topping the list of inquiry into child homicide cases according to Browne & Lynch (1995).
Children in the UK continue to be victims of homicide at the hands of parents, caregivers, acquaintances, other minors, and strangers. While the cases are not new, the offenders seemed to ever be ahead of crime prevention agencies, and in most cases, the agencies have been seen to be reactive, as opposed to being proactive, which would be expected of them (Browne & Lynch, 1995). The UK Department for Children, Schools, and Families remain on high alert and they are aware of the vulnerability of minors to external threats to their lives. According to UK. gov (2017) it is in this regard that the department has in place legislative measures aimed at protecting minors from neglect or abuse and misconduct, which would escalate into their deaths. These legal provisions are aimed at protecting the minor in their position as either victims or witnesses. There has been a consistent pattern of child homicide occurrence within the UK. Thanks to the application of offender profiling by the various crime bursting and investigative agencies, it is now easy to predict the design of future child homicide instances, as well as the identification of offenders of such crimes.
The application of case linkage, sexual assault offender profiling and predictive profiling in a bid to address child homicide has led to the conclusion of the existence of consistent patterns of occurrences of child homicide cases (Friedman, Horwitz & Resnick, 2005). The identification of the victim becomes ever easier with a simple glimpse of the crime scene. With the use of psychological profiling, an offender’s inherent emotional characteristics provide sufficient lead. As will be evident, there exists a consistency with regards to offender characteristics and overall setting that precede any instance of child homicide. The fact that consistency exists with regards to child homicide, settings can help in designing legal and structural approaches to crime handling systems in the UK. Ainsworth (2001) states that the offender profile development process involves the analysis of four aspects: the antecedent, the method and manner, the body disposal techniques and the post-offence behaviour. These aspects become useful in determining the consistencies in victim, offender, killing methods, circumstances, and location (Psychlotron (2017).
Consistent Patterns of Victims
Within family settings, one expects family members to be the first line of defence to a member of the family. Minors, in almost all settings, are expected to enjoy the privilege of protection. If there is a place where one least expects a minor to be exposed to a threat to their life, then it has to be within the household. Statistics, however, shockingly disagree with this expectation. The most common perpetrators of child homicide, from statistics, are parents and stepparents of the victims. Child homicide offenders are in most cases individuals who have been close to the minor for quite some time and even had the responsibility of tending and taking care of them (Moore, 2005). Child dependence on parents makes it easy for the parents to exploit some of the child’s vulnerabilities leading to child homicide. It is worth noting that filicide is more likely to occur during a child’s first day of existence, reducing steadily afterward (McKee & Egan, 2013).
At the early stage of child development, a child is likely to be the victim of neonaticide. Neonaticide, the death of a child within their first day after birth, is majorly caused by young mothers who are not married (Green & Manohar, 1990). Such mothers are the carriers of unwanted pregnancies and, in most instances, do not attend prenatal care. Children born of first-time mothers with no stable relationships are more vulnerable to homicide. Victims of maternal filicide are children of mothers who have been found to exhibit emotional and psychological uniqueness from normal mothers. Mothers who commit altruistic filicide could terminate the life of a child out of love and the belief that such an act would be beneficial to the child. In acutely psychotic filicide, the mother is guided by incomprehensible motives to terminate the life of the child. For the case of unwanted child filicide, the mother acts out of the belief that the child is a hindrance and needs to be done away with.
Consistent Patterns of Child Homicide Offenders
Just like with the victims of child homicide, there is a consistent trend when it comes to child homicide offending. These patterns of variations can be seen in the age, gender, victim-offender relationship as well as the weapons of choice among child homicide offenders. It is worth noting that the involvement of minors as victims of child homicide remains low. Gov. uk (2013) statistics on child death shows that the majority of child homicide cases involve the role of an adult tasked with taking care of the victim. One out of every 50, 000 children is murdered annually, almost always at the hands of a caregiver (Gov. uk 2013). In most instances, this caregiver is a birth parent. The past two and a half decades have seen less than 100 children convicted of child murder. The number of adult offenders is in multiples of this. Figures show that over 65 percent of child homicide offenders in the past decade or so have been birth parents. Other family members, acquaintances, and friends make just about 15% of child homicide victims (Jackson, 1996). Strangers contribute the remaining percentage of child homicide victims. It is noteworthy that child homicide offences are more pronounced in low-income households as compared to middle and high-income homes. This implies that parents and acquaintances within the low-income bracket are more likely perpetrators of child homicide as compared to those in middle and high-income bands (Alder & Polk, 1996). A majority of child homicide offenders have some history of mental inclination towards harming a child, or some degree of sexual fetishes towards the child. Taking the case of the murder of April Jones, for instance, it was found that the offender had numerous images highlighting numerous instances of child sexual abuse in his possession. It could then only be inferred that the offender had taken quite some time to prepare for the heinous act (Lord, Boudreaux, Jarvis, Waldvogel & Weeks, 2002). Such incidences add to the conclusion that child homicide cases are very rarely acts of the accident but require some level of preparedness on the side of the offender. Other offenders of child homicide have a history of either unstable families or relationships or mental and psychological imbalances in the course of their parenting.
Consistencies in Methods of Killing
Like most cases of homicides, the major method of choice in child homicide is the use of a sharp instrument. Male victims of child homicide are recorded to have suffered this brutal form of ending to their lives as compared to the female child homicide victims. This is followed by the use of blunt instruments as the method of choice for child homicide. It, thus, goes without saying that a majority of child homicide cases are no acts of the accident but are preplanned. The female victims of child homicide rank highest, as they are the majority of blunt object hitting leading to their deaths (Oberman, 2003). A female minor is thus more likely to be hit by a blunt object, while a male one is more likely to suffer at the hands of an offender using a sharp object. There are also child homicide cases that involve no use of a weapon. Records indicate that some of the child homicide cases ever handled within the UK involve the offended either hitting or kicking the child to death. Such instances are the product of frustration and mental issues, particularly suffered by the caregiver or the parent to the child. Also in this category is the employment of strangulation or asphyxiation as a method of ending a child’s life. The murder of four children by their mother, Isabel Martinez is a case in point. Investigators have determined that there was no use of contact weapons.
There has also been a marked increase in the cases of child homicide resulting from shootings. Overall, within the UK, the numbers of female victims of child homicide arising from incidences of shootings have outnumbered that of male victims. While shootings still rank low as a means towards the deaths of children, it is a method that has been on the radar of crime prevention authorities. In addition to this method, there are the rampant cases of sexual exploitation of minors leading to their death. Any form of resistance to such advances has seen children suffer, sometimes out of gunshots since some of the child rapists are also armed (McKee & Egan, 2013). There is also the use of poisoning and exposure of the child to harmful drugs by individuals close to them, or in rare cases, strangers.
Consistency in Circumstances and Locations
The circumstances and locations within which child homicides are reported show certain consistencies. To begin with, most of child homicide cases occur within environments where no one would expect the child to face any harm. Given the fact that a majority of child homicide perpetrators are parents and caregivers, child homicide incidences occur within the home setting (Heide, Beauregard & Myers, 2009). Some of the more pronounced circumstances leading to cases of child homicide include mental illness on the side of the parent or caregiver, an unwanted pregnancy, poor living conditions, cases of paedophiles and child pornography operatives.
In 2017, Young Pearson became a victim of child homicide. He had been the case of child murder resulting out of the negligence of the caregiver. While visiting his relatives in 2014, he had been exposed to the asthma attack, his parents taking no action within the required timeframe. Young Pearson’s case highlights the many cases of child homicide cases arising out of preventable circumstances, and majorly out of the neglect of the caregiver. Such negligence has also been recorded among parents who leave their children in dangerous environments such as near fire or inside bathtubs resulting in them drowning or getting burnt (Green, 2007). According to Who. int, some of the cases of child homicide are a product of inherent tensions within the family. Within dysfunctional families, when the mother and father are in constant fights, the child becomes a victim. In such cases, the child is either underfed, not given proper medication, or is harmed during fights.
Additionally, the emotional pressure resulting from a dysfunctional family would easily push a parent to murder their child, and sometimes they are included in the situation for being tired of seeing them suffer (Who. int). Parents could also be driven into drug abuse considering the mental pressure that they have to withstand. Such a decision would then lead them to a careless life, and if not detected early, results in the neglect of the child, or their mistreatment, and finally their death. How these Patterns can be used to Aid those charged with Investigating and Preventing Child Homicide The knowledge of patterns exhibited by child homicide cases within the UK is an important aspect of the prevention of child homicide. As noted earlier, these aspects help child homicide prevention units to map out clear offender profile development strategies.
With these strategies, they can determine crime antecedents, the method and manner of child homicide employed by the offender, and the method of body disposal. Studying the consistent patterns of offenders and victims helps to prevent an impending case of child homicide in its antecedent stage. Noticing the characteristics and common aspects exhibited by child homicide offenders helps to lay down strategies that help to prevent children from exposure to harm. For instance, identifying parents who have instances of mental illnesses, underage parents, and parents under the influence of drugs it is easy to predict that parents of such children are more likely to be victims of child homicide and protecting them early enough. Additionally monitoring web activities with regards to internet searches relating to children will also go a long way in preventing children against predators. Knowing why certain IP address searches focus on child-related material will be important to prevent pedophiles and child traffickers from having contact with the children.
Noting the consistent patterns with regards to the weapon of choice among child homicide offenders is equally important in preventing the child from exposure to a harmful environment. Understanding the consistencies in the environments and circumstances within which child homicide is likely to happen is equally important in the war against child homicide. Such knowledge will help child homicide prevention units to map out their localities and identify areas that exhibit such traits. This will then help them lay down appropriate measures aimed at bringing down the numbers of child homicide cases. Who the Target Should Be The prevention of child homicide requires a multi-sector approach. At the heart of this fight is the role of the parent or caregiver. Involving them equally requires the use of strategies that help to protect the life of the child. The identification of the capacity of an individual to parent is important towards protecting the life of the child. Child homicide prevention must, therefore, involve the understanding of prenatal and postnatal approaches provided to the parent or caregiver. Providing useful input in these processes will help give rise to responsible parents who have the knowledge to protect their children (Sidebotham et al., 2014).
At a higher level, the focus should also be trained on the community at large in a bid to prevent external threats to the life of the child. The involvement of the community will help identify elements, which would be engaged in activities leading to pedophilia, child trafficking or drug use. Identifying these elements and dealing with them in time will help prevent the child and protect their lives. Child homicide prevention has to; therefore, go hand in hand with other forms of crime prevention. Additionally, the proper administration of communities will help hinder any attempts of child disposal after their murder. Understanding the consistent patterns of body disposals and making it harder to do so would hinder one from engaging in such a vice.
How the Police and Social Workers can use this Research in their Work The understanding of trends and consistencies in child homicide incidences within the UK is helpful to both the police, and social workers. Specifically, it helps these two groups to lay down workable strategies towards reducing and eventually ending child homicide instances. On the side of the social workers, the knowledge of these patterns helps to develop schemes to approach families and community to identify traces of traits that would lead to the risking of the life of the child. The social workers are able, through proper information, to link the individual to the community and provide an environment for the integrated approach to child protection (Wardle, 2007). On the side of the police, and as noted extensively before, the understanding of patterns of consistencies resulting in child homicide cases ensures that the police are better equipped with the knowledge to nab offenders even before the act.
Handling cases of drug abuse and the monitoring of community behavior towards children helps to protect the child. The laying down of offender profile development strategies among policing agencies in the prevention of child homicide will rely heavily on the understanding of these consistencies. Through this understanding, the police will be able to identify antecedents, notice and prevent the methods and circumstances that would lead to child homicide, and make it harder for the disposal of bodies by increasing their presence and involvement in the community. In cases of mothers who are more likely to terminate the lives of their children, the social workers can work with the health departments to ensure that the mother undergoes screening to identify if the mother has mental illness or has any exposure to family abuse. The social worker can then work hand in hand with the family and the relevant authorities to address such cases. The social workers can also help to lay down strategies which help in identify teenagers and other adults who could be involved in illicit sexual activities and working hand in hand with the policing bodies to help rehabilitate them.
Some of the Strengths and Weaknesses of this Evidence
The evidence on the consistencies is helpful in helping the relevant agencies to identify traits that would lead to the crime of child homicide in time to enable its prevention. Identifying the antecedents and the methods will help the police and social workers to lay down practical approaches. It is also worth noting that this evidence directs the relevant authorities to strengthen community engagement and involvement in the fight against child homicide. It focuses on the caregiver and the parent as the likely victim; hence, requires any measures aimed at stopping the vice, to begin with, the person closest to the child (Lord et al. , 2002). However, while this evidence provides a means for a practical approach, they present a complexity. Community policing is largely determined by the goodwill of the members of the society. This becomes hard within communities where individuals choose to be isolated. Within such environments, which are becoming ever more pronounced, it is hard to know the negative traits of neighbors who would harm the child. It also becomes hard for neighbours to report on those who seem to pose a threat to the child.
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