Why do some adults find children sexually attractive and is there a stereotypical paedophile? In the second of a two-part series, Owen Amos speaks to an academic expert and visits a worrying website

THE website appears academic: plain, unthreatening and dull. I click "library" and see a menu with options like "scientific articles" and "articles and essays, general".

I click articles and essays.

The first piece seems scholarly. There are footnotes and references to research and quips about Freud. So far, so academic. It's the content that's abnormal.

It's the content that makes your eyes widen, makes your mouth open and makes you wonder whether you're reading right.

"Families which deny children their sexual life, including the possibility of sexual contact with adults, are profoundly limited," it states, plainly.

The website - which is legal - continues: "The fact is children are no less likely to be able to learn maths or geography as a result of involvement in a sexual relationship. Indeed paedophiles, like parents, usually love to help their' children, either to do their homework, or fix their bike, or in a thousand other ways. It makes them feel good to do so.

It is simply an expression of the love they feel."

I scroll to the article's start. The chapter is called: "Do Children NEED Sex?" The book is called "Paedophilia - The Radical Case." In the preface, the author states: "I am a paedophile. In the chapters that follow it will become apparent why I have felt it necessary to crash through the barriers of societal disapproval by speaking out."

The book was written in 1979. The author is Tom O'Carroll. It's the same Tom O'Carroll who was once a journalist and union official. It's the same Tom O'Carroll who lived in Shildon, County Durham, and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in 2006 for child pornography offences.

"Not understanding the damage they are doing to the children is a characteristic of paedophiles, they have low victim empathy," says Michael Teague, senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Teesside and a former p r o b a t i o n worker with sex offenders.

"They are in denial. Denial over t h e i r victims, denial over the number of victims, denial over the fact the victim is not consenting. When you hear someone telling you, as I have, that a five-yearold has consented, it's quite astounding."

That denial - that children are mentally and physically under-developed - is clear on the pseudo- academic website. "Children are in a remarkably analogous position to that of the white women who used to be protected' by lynch mobs of Ku Klux Klansmen in the American south," writes one man.

"The dominant white male culture held that women, like today's children, were not sexual beings - they were pure. Thus, if there was any sexual contact between a white woman and a black man it could only mean one thing. Rape."

So what does a paedophile look like? Are they men in long coats, lurking outside schools, preying on toddlers by offering sweets? Are they isolated, lonely bachelors, glued to their computers?

Paedophiles are not like burglars, says Mr Teague. There is no profile, no stereotypical offender.

"Paedophiles are unlike other criminals," he says.

"There are all kinds of social status, race and so on. It's almost always males, but it's not like you can predict who an offender will be. The idea that it's a bloke who wears a dirty mac and hangs round schools - that stereotype is not true. Most child abuse happens in the home, or by someone who knows the victim. We have this idea of stranger danger' - but it's normally not true."

The man who catches paedophiles agrees with the man who studies them. "It's easy to categorise criminals - the burglar, the drug dealer - but paedophiles cut across all professions," says DI Geoff Smith, Durham Police's head of economic crime.

But what makes a man - be it an actor like Chris Langham, or a pop star like Gary Glitter - download child pornography? Is there a paedophile gene, or is the behaviour learnt?

"We're not absolutely sure what makes a child sex abuser," says Mr Teague. "If we were, we could do something about it as a society."

What about Chris Langham's defence? In court, he said he wanted to "look into the eyes" of paedophiles after he was abused as an eight-year-old.

"It's a fairly common misconception that you can grow up being a paedophile because you were the victim of abuse," says Mr Teague. "That's quite problematic. The majority of victims, for example, are female, but we know the prisons have thousands of male sex offenders. Victims can be very severely damaged mentally, but I think a paedophile will always have denial, a defence mechanism and often a quite twisted view of their behaviour."

AS no one is sure what causes paedophilia, there is no miracle cure; the aim of treatment is "harm reduction" rather than total prevention.

In 1991, the prison service set up the Sex Offender Treatment Programme, which now runs in 26 prisons in England and Wales and treats 1,000 offenders a year. Around four in five sex offenders are not re-convicted of further offences.

As The Northern Echo's archives prove, there has been a vast increase in reported paedophilia. But even now, vast amounts of child sex abuse goes unreported.

According to the NSPCC, 75 per cent of victims do not tell anyone at the time and a third never tell anyone.

"We know from cases like the Jersey care home that there is a lot of sex offending that no one knows about," says Mr Teague. "We need to ensure schools and parents sensitively educate children about how to avoid sexual abuse and to give children every encouragement to report potential abusers."

Child sex abuse, though, is not a recent phenomenon.

Paedophiles did not arrive on the back of high-speed broadband.

"One of the most common things I hear is Why has there been this rise?' The reality is there hasn't been - it's always been there but the internet has focused attention and brings it out in a way it didn't before," says Mr Teague. "We've just become more aware it's there."