Understanding the commission process of sex offending on London railways: An integrated theoretical framework

Research Institution / Organisation

Middlesex University

In Collaboration With

British Transport Police

Principal Researcher

Shola Apena Rogers

Level of Research


Project Start Date

January 2016

Research Context

​Sexual offences in public spaces, particularly on the London railway network, are on an upward trend as identified by research findings on victimisation rates. There are, however, relatively limited studies on offender characteristics or crime analysis identifying routine behaviours, to increase knowledge on how these crimes are committed. The known risk factors for all types of sexual offending include issues such as deviant sexual interests, intimacy and relationship deficits, difficulties in general emotional regulation and antisocial cognitions. However, it is unclear as to the extent that existing theories and typologies can be applied to those who sexually offend on the railways.

In order to understand the relevance of offender characteristics and their contribution to knowledge about how sex offences on London railways are committed, script theory as a crime-specific approach has potential for creating, categorising and systematising knowledge about the crime commission process.

A script theoretical framework provides an analytical approach to elicit the way that events and episodes unfold through comprehensive subjective offenders’ accounts and other sources of information. This theory incorporates different theories and concepts relating to the cognitive and procedural aspects of criminal behaviour. The benefits for this extended analysis of all stages of the crime commission sequence can assist with providing guidance for crime prevention policies.

The purpose of this programme of research is to develop the existing knowledge of the characteristics of sex offenders who commit sexual offences on the railways and secondly, to develop a theoretical framework to explain the commission of these offences.

Research Methodology

A multistage mixed methods approach will be employed to develop the evidence base in this programme of research - data collection and analysis will use both quantitative and qualitative methods to include: 


  • Ethnographic fieldwork observations and semi-structured interviews will be undertaken with 12-15 police officers to understand the context in which they undertake their proactive policing duties. 
  • Archival data will be extracted from BTP records to analyse offence details and perpetrator details to identify patterns of offences, locations and the demographic characteristics of the sex offenders on the railways. This is an unobtrusive way of examining the sexual offences that have already occurred and been reported, to assist with addressing the research questions and developing coding schemes for further exploration. 
  • Semi-structured interviews conducted with convicted sex offenders which will add to the triangulation. 

The principles of grounded theory will be used to analyse the field notes and interview transcriptions to facilitate a progressive identification and integration of categories of meaning of the collected data, which also establishes links within the data. Parametric or non-parametric tests will be used to make comparisons between variables e.g. different types of offences, age, ethnicity etc. Multiple regression analysis will be used to identify any predictor variables.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

May 2019
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