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Here there be monsters: The public's perception of paedophiles with particular reference to Belfast and Leicester

McCartan, Kieran


Kieran McCartan
Professor in Sociology and Criminology


This research study sought to investigate the public
perception of paedophiles. It was undertaken in
Belfast (Northern Ireland) and Leicester (England)
in an attempt to determine whether or not regional
variations existed in relation to the public’s perception
of paedophiles. In doing this, the study sought to
test four hypotheses;
(1) That the press affects the public’s perception of
(2) that the public’s perception of paedophiles is not
congruent with legal and clinical definitions;
(3) that the Sarah Payne case has helped to
reinforce the public’s perception of a predatory
paedophile; and
(4) that the public’s perception is based on fear and
These hypotheses were tested via the distribution
of a questionnaire to an opportunistic sample on the
streets of Belfast and Leicester.
Although the results did not support the hypotheses,
they did yield some very interesting information.
The study indicated that the public is quite
well-informed about paedophilia; its recurrence
rates, practices and in particular the influence of
the media. Furthermore, the study indicated quite
significant differences between the cities of Belfast
and Leicester. In conclusion, the results indicated
that a moral panic connected to paedophilia is very
present in our contemporary society.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2004
Deposit Date Jan 21, 2011
Journal Medicine, Science & the Law
Print ISSN 0025-8024
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 44
Pages 327-342
Keywords public perception, paedophiles, Belfast, Leicester
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date Nov 15, 2016