Paedophile hunters ‘destroying people’s lives for Facebook likes’, police chief warnsIvy Madziva2019-05-14T08:48:00+00:00
Paedophile hunters ‘destroying people’s lives for Facebook likes’, police chief warns.
The vigilante groups are causing people to be wrongly accused, attacked and even take their own lives, a chief constable says.
Vigilante paedophile hunters are slowing down police investigations and destroying people’s lives in the name of “Facebook likes”, a chief constable has warned.
The activists are causing people to be wrongly accused, attacked and even take their own lives, according to Simon Bailey, who leads the UK’s response to child sexual abuse.
Evidence from paedophile hunters is increasingly being used to prosecute offenders, but police are divided on the issue, and some fear the groups’ tactics can impede their own work.
Mr Bailey, who is head of child protection at the National Police Chiefs’ Council, emphatically ruled out working with the groups, saying they take “completely unnecessary risks”.
He said: “I can’t deny they’ve led to convictions, but they’ve also led to people being blackmailed, people being subject of GBH (grievous bodily harm), the wrong people being accused, people committing suicide as a result of interventions, family lives being completely destroyed; in the name of what? Facebook likes.”
Mr Bailey, who is Norfolk Police’s chief constable, said one referral from a paedophile hunting group can take a working day to investigate, time that could be spent identifying half a dozen offenders.
“So many of these groups’ drivers are about seeking infamy through the number of hits they get, the number of likes they get, the number of people that view their live streams,” he added.
“My mission is to safeguard children. There’s a world of difference.”
Mr Bailey also criticised social media companies for failing to do enough to protect children from abuse, suggesting a public boycott may be needed to hit big platforms which have the ability to “pretty much eradicate” indecent imagery.
The number of images on the child abuse image database has ballooned from less than 10,000 in the 1990s to 13.4 million currently, with more than 100 million variations of these.
Mr Bailey’s comments on paedophile hunters mark a shift from remarks in September 2017, when he was quoted as saying that working with vigilantes was something to potentially consider.
In October 2017, David Baker killed himself days after being confronted by the paedophile hunting group Southampton Trap.
The 43-year-old gardener from Hampshire, who had allegedly arranged to meet a 14-year-old child in a supermarket car park, was arrested by police, questioned and released under investigation.
The coroner at his inquest ruled that social media posts by the vigilante group were a “causative factor” in his suicide.
Last year, Sky News was given exclusive access to follow several teams from the Midlands and the north of England, who banded together to track down and confront a suspected sex offender in Birmingham.
Volunteers from four of the groups acted as decoys, posing as underage girls in internet chatrooms, to gather evidence on the man.
The teams logged hundreds of pages of transcripts of the man’s online conversations, where it is claimed he made suggestions of a sexual nature and sent explicit photos and videos to the decoys.
But senior police officers said they had serious concerns about the activities of a number of the groups, particularly when it comes to filming confrontations with suspected paedophiles and posting them online.
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