U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

'Paedophile-in-the-Community' Protests: Press Reporting and Public Responses (From Sex as Crime?, P 356-375, 2008, Gayle Letherby, Kate Williams, Philip Birch, and Maureen Cain, eds. -- See NCJ-224405)

NCJ Number
Jenny Kitzinger
Date Published
20 pages
This chapter examines the extensive coverage by British media of sex crimes against children by strangers and discusses the media’s role in inciting people to demand more government action to protect children from pedophiles in their communities.
This chapter argues that the demonization of pedophiles by the media and resulting public outrage that claims the government is not doing enough to expose pedophiles for communities to target them impedes a rational and just problem-solving approach to sexual violence as a broad social problem. The history of public outrage against known pedophiles living anonymously in local communities can be traced back to some of the famous serial child sex murders in Great Britain in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. In the 1990s and early 2000s, these individuals, dubbed by the tabloids as “the most hated” people in Britain, were due for release or had begun living incognito across the country. Under the law at that time, these men could change their names and live anywhere they chose without their neighbors knowing their identities and criminal histories. Media reporting of this problem in the mid-1990s initially followed routine media practice of relying on official government information sources; however, media coverage and public debate rapidly shifted as particular communities and portions of the media began to agitate for public access to the government register of sex offenders and demanded that communities be notified when dangerous individuals moved into their neighborhoods. Journalists and pressure groups focused on community notification legislation enacted in the United States; this legislation, known as Megan’s Law, was enacted in 1996. Protests in the United Kingdom rapidly spread from one area to another, often under initiatives by local journalists in “outing” sex offenders in their communities. 7 notes and 17 references