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Chief Bakes

BBC: 'Paedophile hunter' evidence used 150 times

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Chief Bakes

'Paedophile hunter' evidence used to charge 150 suspects

  • 10 April 2018
Decoy talking to man on Facebook
Image caption Decoys spend hours conversing with individuals on messaging apps, with transcripts then printed off and handed to police as evidence

Evidence from so-called paedophile hunter groups was used to charge suspects at least 150 times last year, a BBC investigation has found.

A Freedom of Information request, sent to every police force in England and Wales, showed a seven-fold increase in the use of such evidence from 2015.

Twenty-nine of the forty-three forces approached (67%) provided data.

Despite this, the National Police Chiefs Council say the groups' tactics present "significant risks".

Tracked down

The online groups use what they call "decoys" to pose as underage children and wait to be contacted by adults.

They then converse privately with adults and identify those attempting to groom young people.

Individuals are then tracked down, the confrontation is often streamed live on social media and police are called.

A 'decoy' - 'Sarah' of Predator Exposure

"They [the targets] are always made aware of the child's age at the start of the chat, so there's no misconception about how old the child is," Sarah said.

"We class ourselves as child protectors - if a potential predator is talking to my decoy, they aren't talking to a real child, that's the way I look at it."

Sarah told the BBC she spent hours replying to messages which often contain explicit language, photos and videos.

"I set a new decoy up one night, by the next morning I had had 180 friend requests, mostly from men," she said.

"We're only touching the tip of the iceberg, it's right across social media. Even if we just take 20 out, those 20 aren't going to be child rapists."

It is thought about 75 active "paedophile hunter" groups are operating across the UK.

Police warn the groups' actions may interfere with surveillance operations and "evidence" they gather may be illegally obtained and therefore excluded from a prosecution.

One group, Predator Exposure, was founded in Leeds in 2016 and claims to have supplied evidence leading to the conviction of more than 20 sex crime offenders in the past 12 months.

Image caption A recruitment event was held in a pub in Bradford to find volunteer "decoys"

Speaking at a volunteer recruitment day at a pub in Bradford, ex-convict Phil Hoban, who started the group, said: "The police can say 'we don't like you doing this, we don't like you doing that', but we're going to continue."

Mr Hoban served 15 months in prison in 2005 for his part in a robbery where a cash machine was stolen in East Yorkshire.

He said his group, which has seven members, staged the enrolment drive for new "decoys" in order to deal with the growing demand.

Potential volunteers were told the role would take up a great deal of spare time and an interest in child protection was required.

The data

Each police force in England and Wales was asked by the BBC to say how many people had been charged after evidence was given by paedophile hunters, with 29 out of 43 able to give three years' worth of figures.

The supplied data showed a greater than seven-fold rise in two years - from 20 in 2015 to 150 in 2017.

Of the police forces that responded, almost half (47%) of the cases of the crime of meeting a child following sexual grooming used evidence from so-called paedophile hunting groups in 2017.

The data only confirms that the evidence was used in some part. It does not suggest that the vigilantes' actions were solely responsible for charges being brought.

Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson, of West Yorkshire Police, urged those who are involved in paedophile hunter groups to bring them evidence but to then "let us deal with it".

"It does present significant risks when these groups confront individuals, first of all for themselves - these are often very high-octane, emotional situations," she said.

"There's significant risk involved for the individuals that they are confronting, not least because it might sometimes be an innocent member of the public or it might actually disrupt a wider undercover policing investigation that we've got ongoing."

Chief Constable Simon Bailey, from the National Police Chiefs' Council, said: "The increase in these groups is symptomatic of the increasing scale of child sexual abuse that police are dealing with.

"It reinforces the need for technology companies to do more to prevent offenders using their platforms to prey on children and for children to be educated about healthy relationships and staying safe online."

View the full article

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Radman

Encountered these groups numerous times now some are far better than others but I think it's fair to say without their evidence there would be alot of dangerous offenders committing horrific offences against children going undetected.

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Pavillion
Posted (edited)
On 4/10/2018 at 01:56, Chief Bakes said:

The data only confirms that the evidence was used in some part. It does not suggest that the vigilantes' actions were solely responsible for charges being brought.

Making sure the Public also think the Police had a role in the prosecution of the offender.

 

On 4/10/2018 at 01:56, Chief Bakes said:

Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson, of West Yorkshire Police, urged those who are involved in paedophile hunter groups to bring them evidence but to then "let us deal with it".

So the Police can take the credit, pitiful.

 

On 4/10/2018 at 01:56, Chief Bakes said:

"It does present significant risks when these groups confront individuals, first of all for themselves - these are often very high-octane, emotional situations," she said.

They are adults, stupid reasoning. I would think they are aware of the risks involved. Police just have to always point out risk, no positive comments how the groups have aided in the capture of bad people.

 

 

Edited by Pavillion

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Beaker



So the Police can take the credit, pitiful.


Hardly that, more that the first time someone dies doing this the police will take a kicking. They're going to get the blame, and they're going to have to justify why a MoP was killed doing this. The Press aren't going to accept any reasons, no matter how good.

While most of these people will be compliant, there is a minority that won't be. Someone at some point IS going to die, and this is why they say get in contact with the police.

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Pavillion
Posted (edited)
25 minutes ago, Beaker said:

Hardly that, more that the first time someone dies doing this the police will take a kicking. They're going to get the blame, and they're going to have to justify why a MoP was killed doing this. The Press aren't going to accept any reasons, no matter how good.

Why do you think that the Police will be blamed?

Who's at fault for thinking the Police are societies protectors.

Who is to blame for allowing the idea that the Police can save one from harm?

 

I think a lot of that ideology comes from misguided Police trying to claim they are societies saviours. Police made their bed and now they have to lie in it.

Edited by Pavillion

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Beaker
Why do you think that the Police will be blamed?
Who's at fault for thinking the Police are societies protectors.
Who is to blame for allowing the idea that the Police can save one from harm?
 
I think a lot of that ideology comes from misguided Police trying to claim they are societies saviours. Police made their bed and now they have to lie in it.
Because The Press likes to beat up on the police. This would sell a LOT of papers, and the officers will be pilloried.

I don't know any officers who think they're the saviours of society. Mostly they're doing the best they can, with the tools they have available. I guarantee you that if they passed their evidence on to CID or even Response teams the guys in question would be lifted very quickly. That however wouldn't satisfy the egos of the people in these groups. They NEED the confrontation to show on youtube to get the pats in the back they feel are due.

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Pavillion
Posted (edited)
21 minutes ago, Beaker said:

Because The Press likes to beat up on the police. This would sell a LOT of papers, and the officers will be pilloried.

So, why do you hold the public in such low regard that they are not able to recognise this issue?

 

21 minutes ago, Beaker said:

I don't know any officers who think they're the saviours of society.

I said Police, did not mention any individuals, part of the problem is constable not recognising the difference.

 

21 minutes ago, Beaker said:

Mostly they're doing the best they can, with the tools they have available. I guarantee you that if they passed their evidence on to CID or even Response teams the guys in question would be lifted very quickly.

I should hope.

 

21 minutes ago, Beaker said:

That however wouldn't satisfy the egos of the people in these groups.

How did you arrive at that conclusion?

 

21 minutes ago, Beaker said:

They NEED the confrontation to show on youtube to get the pats in the back they feel are due.

Again, what information drives you to make such claims?

Edited by Pavillion

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Mazza
They are adults, stupid reasoning. I would think they are aware of the risks involved. Police just have to always point out risk, no positive comments how the groups have aided in the capture of bad people.
 
 


Police aren’t trying to take the credit but last time I checked the Police are the ones that report crime to the Crown Office, not civilians?

Yes, engaging in a suspected paedophile and gathering some evidence is one thing but critically, it is only ONE THING in what is potentially a very large enquiry. You still have arrests to process, interviews to conduct, phones/laptops to seize, safety and welfare checks to conduct, a case to write and evidence to seize. It’s not like the vigilante groups package it up all neatly and go, “here you go, all you need to do is send this whole thing to the crown office and you can take the credit for it” - there’s a power of work getting done by the cops as well.

I think what the ACC is trying to say is that there is no need to have these confrontations and film them. My area had a vigilante group recently and they’d put the video all over social media of the guy getting confronted and lifted before it even got to court. It’s not on.
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cookyy2k
3 hours ago, Pavillion said:

Making sure the Public also think the Police had a role in the prosecution of the offender.

Did these groups bring a private prosecution against the individuals as they are perfectly allowed to do? I mean if the police have no part to play then surely they'd have enough to proceed it to court without any police or CPS involvement wouldn't they?

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Mac7

I find the comments about “taking the credit” and “pitiful” a bit strong and shows a lack of awareness over evidence and procedure. You can be forgive as I assume you have no experience of criminal investigations but to write comments such as that are way off the mark.

There have been cases in the press recently about problems with disclosure at court or during investigations. These vigilante investigations could throw up a whole range of disclosure problems and non compliance with CPIA. I can’t for a moment believe they keep files of unused material. Who is going to “take the credit” when the case falls apart at court and a potential paedophile is released? I believe this is what the ACC is suggesting.

  • Like 2

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Smiley Culture
Posted (edited)

I've only encountered "hunters" once - they seemed fairly professional and gave us something we could work with (although I didn't do the secondary investigation so can only presume that their case held up).  While we were chatting, though, they did mention other groups they knew of who were more slapdash in their actions, and as a result had caused problems by getting involved.  So I can see why the ACC is reluctant to give a blanket approval for hunting, however well-intentioned.

It strikes me as a bit of a legal minefield - in addition to CPIA as mentioned by @Mac7, I wonder whether there's a risk of falling foul of PACE or the Human Rights Act if you didn't know what you were doing or got carried away.  For example, I note the fallout that occurred from the SYP/BBC/Cliff Richard encounter, which might have a bearing on the hunters' practice of filming their stings beyond making @Mazzaand me twitchy.

Edited by Smiley Culture

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ParochialYokal

It strikes me as a bit of a legal minefield - in addition to CPIA as mentioned by [mention=4652]Mac7[/mention], I wonder whether there's a risk of falling foul of PACE or the Human Rights Act if you didn't know what you were doing or got carried away.  For example, I note the fallout that occurred from the SYP/BBC/Cliff Richard encounter, which might have a bearing on the hunters' practice of filming their stings beyond making [mention=1038]Mazza[/mention]and me twitchy.


I am sure that most people would agree that it is ridiculous for Paedo Hunters to live stream ‘the catch’, so who knows what the BBC were thinking with Cliff Richards!

Whilst I am broadly agnostic about the work of these groups, legislation on the issue may be inevitable.

I have watched a few clips where I have felt deeply uncomfortable where the Hunters have clearly committed public order offences. One involved chasing a rather pathetic figure with learning disabilities around the streets and preventing him from seeking refuge on a bus whilst shouting abuse at him. Or where questions have been asked and the Hunters got irate at the answer (“you’re really effing winding me up” etc). And others have involved Hunters turning up at home addresses and exposing family members to publicity- that’s never acceptable, especially where the wider family are themselves socially excluded.

Clearly, these Paedo Hunters catch those with the propensity to offend. But the reality is that the majority (but not all) would never get the chance to offend in real life but react to someone dangling opportunity right in front of them.

Jim Gamble- a respected child protector- suggested that volunteers should be used as an alternative. I have got problem with ‘cyber Specials’ being recruited to do this within a very tight framework of accountability.

For the majority of those caught, I do not believe that prison and publicity is the right response. Packages of rehabilitation and virtual surveillance would be better to mitigate the risk that they face. People who commit such acts should be subject to civil orders that restrict their internet use for, well, ever and tracing software should be used to monitor them.

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Jeebs

I think what these hunter groups don’t realise is the safeguarding that needs put in place for the suspects.

Our PPU/Child abuse investigators don’t keep lists of those convicted, they keep lists of people who have killed themselves during the course of an investigation, prior to it even getting close to court. An alarming percentage of suspects do actually commit suicide.

We have recently had an email out saying that we are not to thank these Hunter groups or congratulate them for their work. It’s “bad for the public image of the police” apparently.

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Pavillion
18 hours ago, ParochialYokal said:

Clearly, these Paedo Hunters catch those with the propensity to offend. But the reality is that the majority (but not all) would never get the chance to offend in real life but react to someone dangling opportunity right in front of them.

Could please clarify your usage of the term "dangling" and what you know about these groups that led you to your reasoning?

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Zulu 22

It's called, many times, "agent provocateur" which can lead to the whole collapse of cases in court on legal technicalities.

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