Paedophile vigilante groups destroy people's lives for Facebook likes, says police chief

‘So many of these groups’ drivers are about seeking infamy through the number of hits they get, the number of likes they get,’ says head of child protection at National Police Chiefs’ Council

Tom Batchelor
Saturday 11 May 2019 10:06
Paedophile vigilante groups destroy people's lives for Facebook likes, says police chief

Paedophile vigilante groups slow down official investigations and are destroying people’s lives for the sake of Facebook likes, the police chief leading the country’s response to child sexual abuse has warned.

Simon Bailey, head of child protection at the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said the work of paedophile hunters had led to people being attacked or even taking their own lives.

“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 told the Press Association.

“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, the chief constable at Norfolk Police, said a colleague had described to him how one referral from a group can take a working day to investigate, time that could have been spent identifying half a dozen offenders.

His comments mark a reversal in police attitudes to the vigilante networks, which have made headlines in recent years for filming their unofficial “stings”.

In 2017, Mr Bailey said forces would “potentially have to look at” working with networks of paedophile hunters in the future.

One of the most high profile groups, Dark Justice, has claimed to have aided the arrest of more than 100 potential sex offenders.

Another group, the Hunted One, came under scrutiny after members confronted a man who allegedly travelled to Bluewater Shopping Centre in the belief he was meeting a 14-year-old girl for sex.

During the filming, another group of men burst in and assaulted the man as he was being questioned by vigilantes, causing security guards and police to intervene.

David Baker, who was confronted by the group Southampton Trap after allegedly arranging to meet a 14-year-old child in a supermarket car park, took his own life a few days later.

The 43-year-old gardener from Hampshire was arrested by police, questioned and released under investigation in October 2017.

The coroner at his inquest ruled that social media posts by the vigilante group were a “causative factor” in his suicide.

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