This research examines how the media report on sentences given to those who commit serious crimes against children and how this impacts on public knowledge and attitudes. Three months of press and television coverage were analyzed in order to establish the editorial lines that are taken in different sections of the media and how they are promoted by selective reporting of sentencing. Results indicate that a small number of very high profile crimes account for a significant proportion of reporting in this area and often, particularly in the tabloid press, important information regarding sentencing rationale is sidelined in favor of moral condemnation and criticism of the judiciary. Polling data indicate that public attitudes are highly critical of sentencing but also confused about the meaning of tariffs. The article concludes by discussing what can be done to promote a more informed public debate over penal policy in this area. Abstract published by arrangement with Sage Journals.