Paedophiles, panics, and protests: understanding penal populism

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In recent years the criminal justice response to sex offenders in the United Kingdom has become progressively punitive, with extended sentences and increased supervision and surveillance upon release from prison. As well as raising an number of issues regarding the human rights of such offenders, it has been argued that this 'upward spiral of punitiveness' (Nash, 2006:105) has been fuelled by media induced moral panics, which have generated fear and concern within the general public, thereby offering justification for such draconian legislative developments. Using moral panics and moral enterprise as a theoretical framework, this analysis will review such legislative changes by examining the demonstrations against a child sex offender in Paulsgrove, Portsmouth, and the various issues that connect media reporting of child sex offenders, the public reactions to such offenders, and how the criminal justice system has responded to such fears.It will be argued that those studies that utilise moral panics as a framework of analysis are inherently flawed as they largely ignore moral enterprise, which produces a symbiotic link between media, social control agencies, moral entrepreneurs and interest groups in the creation of primary frameworks that define the 'reality of crime' and aid the construction of criminal justice policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-72
Number of pages21
JournalJapanese Journal of Sociological Criminology
Issue number31
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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