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The Nature of Paedophilia

Matthew Hill looks at the latest scientific research on paedophilia and how our understanding of the condition has implications for the best way to treat and manage it.

Three years on from the murder of their daughter April Jones by paedophile Mark Bridger, her parents Coral and Paul are calling for help to be given to paedophiles to stop them offending. Perhaps surprising views given their loss, but should we be giving this idea a lot more thought? And how can we stop child abuse by paedophiles when we understand very little about them?

BBC health correspondent Matthew Hill looks at the subject from a scientific point of view and examines what we do know about paedophilia. He explores the latest scientific research on what causes it, whether it is a treatable illness and how our understanding of the condition has implications for the best way to manage it.

He talks to leading neuroscientists about what is going in the brains of paedophiles and visits the NeMUP project in Germany; a research consortium studying the neurobiological mechanisms underlying paedophilia.

Matthew considers whether our collective revulsion of paedophiles is getting in the way of preventing child sexual abuse. If they were less vilified, would they be more willing to seek help and would this prevent offences being committed? With exclusive access to two paedophiles, Matthew finds out what it is like to be seen by society as a monster and what support is available in the UK.

And if paedophilia is a medical condition that needs our understanding, should we not be investing more in preventative treatment? The NSPCC and police service think so and believe we need to adopt a public health approach. The programme also speaks to “Don’t Offend”, a unique prevention project taking place in Germany.

Producer: Helena Selby
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

{Image: Brain differences between paedophiles and non-paedophiles illustrated in Dr James Cantor’s white matter study}

Available now

28 minutes

Last on

Mon 13 Jul 2015 20:00

Support Organisations:

Stop it Now! UK and Ireland works to protect children and prevent child sexual abuse. Their helpline offers confidential advice, information and support to anyone with concerns about child sexual abuse and helps callers take the action that is in the best interests of children. The helpline is available to any adult who has concerns relating to child sexual abuse. This includes those who are concerned that an adult or child they know is sexually abusing a child, or is at risk of doing so; is concerned about their own thoughts or behaviour towards children, including an interest in child pornography; or is a parent or carer of a child whose sexual behaviour or interests they find worrying.

Freephone Helpline: 0808 1000 900

Email:  (emails received are anonymised to preserve confidentiality and they aim to respond within 3-5 days)

The NSPCC is a charity specialising in child protection and the prevention of cruelty to children. The charity has a free anonymous 24/7 helpline that provides help, advice and support to adults worried about a child. 

Helpline: 0808 800 5000

Text: 88858


Pace (Parents against child sexual exploitation) works alongside parents and carers of children who are – or are at risk of being – sexually exploited by perpetrators external to the family, as well as offering guidance and training to professionals on how child sexual exploitation affects the whole family. Pace seeks to enable parents and carers to safeguard and stop their children being sexually exploited, works with parents and partners to disrupt and bring perpetrators to justice, and aims to influence national and local policy and practice.

Phone: 0113 240 3040

 Mosac is a voluntary organisation supporting all non-abusing parents and carers whose children have been sexually abused. They provide a safe place for parents and carers to come following the trauma of discovering that their child or children have been abused. They offer practical and emotional support in a number of ways, including a telephone helpline, advice sessions, an advocacy service and therapy sessions.

Helpline: 0800 980 1958

 The National Crime Agency's CEOP Command is the UK’s national police agency set up to tackle child sexual exploitation and abuse. If you are worried about someone’s sexual behaviour towards a child online, you can report this at or via the ClickCEOP button available on many websites.

Public enquiries line: 0870 000 3344

CEOP’s Thinkuknow education programme has information for parents, teachers and young people about staying safe on the internet

 Circles UK is an innovative community service that responsibly involves local people in protecting the most vulnerable from those with convictions for serious sexual offences. Circles are small groups of carefully selected, trained and supervised volunteers who, in close cooperation with Probation and Police, monitor but crucially also provide practical and social support to someone most at risk of reoffending. Each project has its own eligibility criteria, but generally the service is for men or women who have acknowledged that that have committed sexually harmful behaviour and are assessed as at risk of engaging in further offending behaviour.

Phone: 0118 950 0068


The National Association for People Abused in Childhood is a charity that offers support, advice and guidance to adult survivors of any form of childhood abuse.

Phone: 0808 801 0331

Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year. It provides a safe place for anyone who needs to talk, whoever they are, however they are feeling and whatever life has done to them. 

Phone: 08457 90 90 90 (calls will cost 2p per minute plus your telephone company’s access charge)


Text: 07725 90 90 90 (to find details of your nearest branch)


  • Mon 13 Jul 2015 20:00