“The Modern Witch Hunt” – Understanding Perceptions of ‘Paedophile Hunters’ in England and Wales

  • James Young

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This thesis regards perceptions of Paedophile Hunters in England and Wales. The rise of online child sex offences has led to online vigilantes – coined ‘Paedophile Hunters’, utilizing online spaces to entrap potential offenders. Some key assumptions in the existing literature assume that Paedophile Hunters exist due to the public dislike for sex offenders, and their negative views of the police (Purshouse, 2020; Hadjimatheou, 2021). Thus, this research aimed to explore whether this was the case, by assessing public perceptions of sex offenders and Paedophile Hunters, and whether this influenced their contact with the police.

Utilising a quantitative survey method, and quota-controlled non-probability samples, this thesis utilised a Perceptions of Sex Offender (PSO) scale and created a Perceptions of Paedophile Hunter (PPH) scale to assess whether these perceptions affected one another. It also utilised case vignettes to assess whether these views affected willingness to comply with the police.

It found that perceptions of Paedophile Hunters were narrowly positive and that these were directly influenced by perceptions of sex offenders. When respondents held more negative views on sex offenders, they typically held more positive views on Paedophile Hunters. In addition, it finds that while there is public support for Paedophile Hunters, there is a reluctance to engage – due to the risk associated with them. Most people, when faced with a victim’s confession, would then report this either to the parents of the victim or directly to the police.
Date of Award25 Apr 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCarla Reeves (Co-Supervisor) & Ashley Cartwright (Co-Supervisor)

Cite this