SCOTTISH university was last night embroiled in a new row over a
student whose thesis challenges the law on sex abuse after he was awarded
Richard Yuill, who received his doctorate in
sociology from Glasgow University at a graduation ceremony yesterday, said
his research into relationships between adults and children under 16
countered the "dominant view" that they were unacceptable, and
raised questions about the legal age of consent. He said those interviewed
had had both positive and negative experiences.
However, there was concern among child abuse and protection experts who
feared his findings would "play into the hands" of abusers who
justified their activity by claiming victims were willing participants.
Mr Yuill, 38, who lives in Bearsden, near Glasgow, said he was
"unapologetic" about his research, which he said was
ground-breaking in tackling a taboo issue, and said his critics were
"churning out the same rubbish that has been churned out for the last
He admitted approaching paedophiles in connection with his five-year
research, but stressed that the victims he had interviewed were all now
"Basically, in my research I found the
good, the bad and the ugly in these relationships," he said.
"Abuse is not applicable to all these relationships …
Historically and cross-culturally, the age of consent is variable. If
you advocate that in this country, you are regarded as a lunatic."
Chris Harrison, a senior lecturer in social work
at Warwick University, said:
"Whatever his intention, one of the
things we know about sexual offenders is that they seize on this kind of
thing and use it to support their position."
Rachel O'Connell, an academic expert in online
sexual exploitation of children at the University of Central Lancashire,
said there was a need for a UK-wide ethics board that would give
guidelines for future research, particularly on sensitive subjects.
A Glasgow University spokes-woman said last night that Mr Yuill's research
had been subject to a "rigorous internal investigation", and was
looked at by internal and external examiners. She added: "The views
expressed in this thesis are those of Dr Yuill and not those of the
Mr Yuill was struck off as a teacher by the General Teaching Council five
years ago after being found guilty of gross professional misconduct when
he worked at Oban High School.
The university said it was unaware of the action.