Man who was chased down by ‘vigilante paedophile-hunters’ is jailed for eight years

Officers have stressed that people taking the law into their own hands can have disastrous consequences, and said offences need to be reported to the police ‘as soon as possible’

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The Independent Online

A man who was confronted by a vigilante paedophile-hunting group over abusive activities towards a child has been jailed for eight years.

James Stone, 24, was sentenced today at Nottingham Crown Court after he admitted seven offences including sexual activity with a child, the BBC reported.

Mr Stone was filmed during a confrontation with the group Letzgo Hunting, which said it had posed as a 14-year-old girl to find out more information about his grooming activities and that he confessed in messages with them to have already abused a 15-year-old.

Police said they investigated the case and arrested Mr Stone after they were contacted by the girl’s mother, but in a separate BBC report she credits Letzgo Hunting with helping her find out the illegal and sexual nature of what was happening to her daughter, and with then providing her with the contact details of who to speak to at the police.

Nonetheless, officers said that the “evidence” compiled by the group did not play a part in the case, and warned against anyone taking the law into their own hands.

Nottinghamshire Police’s Det Insp Martin Hillier, who led the case, told the BBC: “I cannot stress enough how important it is to report offences to the police, and to do this as soon as possible.”

“James Stone not only preyed upon his young victim under the guise of a schoolboy, he did it in the family home and during school time, under the noses of the adults in her life, because James Stone was hiding in her mobile phone.

“He groomed and manipulated her into doing things she would never do, before luring her to his home and taking advantage of her in the very worst way.”

Officers said that vigilantism risked spooking suspects, leading them to destroy evidence or harm children or themselves.

Jailed today, Mr Stone admitted to meeting a child following sexual grooming, two counts of sexual assault with a child, one count of sexual activity with a child, two counts of possession of indecent photographs of a child and one count of possessing an extreme pornographic image.

Handing down the eight-year term, Judge Joan Butler QC said Mr Stone had undergone “a campaign of grooming”.

“I accept you didn't force her and you didn't use any violence but that wasn't necessary because you had groomed her so well,” she said.

“An organisation became involved and got in contact with you and pretended to be young girls. You were grooming them in the same way as you had groomed the complainant in this case.”

There were reports in the wake of Mr Stone’s arrest, as well as accusations relating to the suicide of another man confronted by Letzgo Hunting, that the group had been shut down.

But having been inactive “for maintenance”, the Letzgo Hunting website is now back up and running, complete with a boast of its “first conviction” in Mr Stone.

And in a message posted on its Facebook page, the group said James Stone was “caught by Letzgo Hunting”, adding: “Anyone who said we were frauds, fakes or not interested in child protection, eat your words!”