'Paedophile Hunter' Stinson Hunter to broadcast sting operation live as 'swansong'

Hunter claims final operation is to raise awareness of online grooming

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The Independent Online

Stinson Hunter is planning to broadcast a live sting operation this weekend as his "swansong" before giving up the controversial 'paedophile hunts' he has carried out for two years.

Hunter's practice of ensnaring men by posing as a child in internet forums and then filming the moment they come to face-to-face with a grown man was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary, The Paedophile Hunter, in 2014.

A year after it aired, Hunter will end his campaign with a live operation involving his team posing as children online and speaking with potential targets. Streaming will kick-off at midday on Saturday and anyone who does request a meeting will be ambushed by the 33-year-old and his camera, with the exchange broadcast live on the internet.

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Stinson Hunter and his associates Stubbs and Grime in Channel 4 documentary The Paedophile Hunter

Speaking to The Independent, Hunter dismissed suggestions the sting could be dangerous if members of the public try to guess where the ‘target' is and insisted that he would not be luring men into meeting with him. He said all location data would be switched off and a delay will be on to allow his technical team to blur out any private information.

“I hope nobody talks dirty to me and turns up,” he said. “I really hope that me getting it out there and saying that I am doing this, that nobody will turn up, instead they will think twice about it.

“If someone wants to turn up then they can. If not I’ll give them a phone call and the chat log will be put online. It’s up to them. It’s educational, it’s going to be me setting everything up how it would be normally so the public can see the profile and watch the conversation as it goes on. It’s about making people shocked at what’s going on in real time, not just in an edited video.”

Hunter’s vigilante methods have been criticised in the past by police, who said his actions could have "could have several serious consequences", including on on-going investigations. A former partner of a man who killed himself after being snared by Hunter also spoke out against his stings, warning they could spark dangerous and potentially violent “witch hunts” by copy-cat groups.

But while he admitted that a part of the reason he is ending his stings is because of the volume of copy-cat groups now in existence, he claimed his purpose had never been about hunting down sexual predators. "The 'paedophile hunter' name came from the film - I never wanted to be associated with that," he said. "I never approach people after setting up the profiles. If I was hunting people I would actually go for them. We just set up profiles, say we are a child and everything they do after that is a choice. If anything I do everything I can to discourage them; I tell them I am 14 and I want them to stop talking to me.”

Instead, he said his stings began as a way of raising awareness of grooming online: “I started this to get attention. I didn’t do it to get people locked up. After Channel 4, I’ve just been repeating what I had already said. As a person with a high profile, I think that I have made my point. People aren’t talking about it anymore because there are so many copycats. I need to go in and start talking to the kids at schools. This is about me being able to reach everybody - perhaps even through a charity. Maybe they could go in and educate people instead of me."

He also claimed his intention was never to have people arrested, saying his vigilante image had been thrust upon him. “I get labelled a vigilante but I did it to get people taking about something that was being grossly ignored by the government and by charities, and the only way I knew how to get attention was by being as controversial as possible.”

Hunter’s next plan is to create an online safety campaign that he can blog about and take into schools - although he doesn’t know quite what shape it would take yet.

“I can’t focus on anything else,” he said. “This weekend is about me wrapping everything up and then showing people how to keep safe because the Government aren’t doing anything to educate people. I’ve been around for a while and doing the same thing to get attention on a really serious subject and I’ve done that now. Now, I want to start educating people while I have this profile and people know what I do and believe and trust me.

“The next step is to stop the kids being groomed."

"It’s like Isis grooming people," he added. "It’s the same sort of message that they are sending, and it needs to stop.”