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Controversy surrounds university thesis on paedophilia


Martin Williams,
The Herald, UK, December 2, 2004


A 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 a PhD.

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 20 years".

He admitted approaching paedophiles in connection with his five-year research, but stressed that the victims he had interviewed were all now over 18.

"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 university itself."

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.

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