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Church safeguarding expert not sold on genetic sex offence link

by Aaron James

However Simon Bass, the CEO of the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service, said it was important not to overstate the role of genetics, because many other studies emphasise the role of the environment much more.

Mr Bass also called for more research to be done into the reasons why people commit sex crimes, because the findings can inform risk assessments and make people safer.

He was speaking after researchers from the University of Oxford and Karolinska Institute in Sweden found the brothers of convicted sex offenders are five times more likely than average to commit similar crimes.

The report also found the sons of fathers who are convicted sexual offenders are four times more likely than average to commit similar crimes.

The study covered more than 21,000 convicted men in Sweden between 1973 and 2009, and the researchers concluded that genetics have a "substantial influence" in the likelihood someone will commit sex crimes, whilst environment factors only had a "relatively small influence" in comparison.

However other experts have said the study is unlikely to have been able to separate the effects of genetics versus the effects of a person's environment, and that it is extremely important not to stigmatise people who have family members who are convicted sex offenders, whilst they are not.

Simon Bass told Premier's News Hour: "I think we need to take some caution here, and having looked at the actual report itself what they're saying is that... [genetics] is a possible factor, not a definitive factor.

"It is a significant study because it was taken over a 37-year period, but it is purely that - it is one study. There are many other studies that would say other factors, such as environment, do play a part.

"I think certainly this is an important study in terms of looking at risk factors, 'what can we do?,' and clearly if there is an environmental factor or a genetic factor that needs to be put into risk assessment."

Listen to Simon Bass speaking to Premier's Hannah Tooley here:

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