Vigilante paedophile hunting should stop, say Derbyshire police

This post first appeared on Derby Telegraph. Read the original article.

Vigilante paedophile hunters should stop their work as it's not safe and can "jeopardise" existing police investigations, a leading Derbyshire cop has said.

Assistant Chief Constable Bill McWilliam's comments are seemingly at odds with an interview given by the Chief Constable for Norfolk.

Simon Bailey, the national lead for child protection at the National Police Chiefs' Council, was asked by the BBC if forces were going to have to start looking at working with paedophile hunters.

He said: "I think that's something we're going to have to potentially have to look at, yes, but it comes with some real complexity."

Despite that view, he earlier said: "[These] vigilante groups are putting the lives of children at risk. They might not perceive it that way, but they are potentially compromising our operations.

"I'm not going to condone these groups and I would encourage them all to stop, but I recognise that I am not winning that conversation."

Read More

The latest crime news in our area

A BBC investigation also found that the amount of evidence from paedophile hunters used in court cases was on the rise.

Figures show 11% of court cases in 2014 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for the crime of meeting a child after sexual grooming used vigilante evidence, rising to 44% in 2016.

But the Derbyshire Assistant Chief Constable's comments leave no doubt as to where our county's force stands on the issue.

He said: "Tackling abuse of children is of course a leading priority for Derbyshire police. They are horrific crimes and we are determined to tackle them as robustly as possible.

"With regards to the complex issue of ‘paedophile hunter groups’, whilst we acknowledge that many take part with the best of intentions and we recognise that they have a degree of public support, we must continue to strongly recommend that they don’t carry out this type of activity.

"Vigilante groups, in almost every context, are compromising their personal safety as well as running the risk of jeopardising investigations and corrupting evidence that could potentially be required in court. Whilst bringing these abhorrent offenders to justice, it’s crucial that we are not derailed by such issues.

"I would, therefore, ask that anyone with any information about child abuse provides it to the police as early and as quickly as possible."

The most well-known case of paedophile hunter success linked to Derbyshire recently involved cricketer Richard Sladdin.

The former Derbyshire player was jailed for child sex offences after being caught in a sting operation by vigilantes.

Sladdin, who played between 1991 and 1994, had used an internet dating site to arrange a meeting with someone he thought was a girl of 14 called Claire.

But the spin bowler was unmasked when he turned up at a car park with a packet of crisps, an alcoholic drink and a box of condoms – only to be confronted by a man who showed him his incriminating messages.

Self-proclaimed paedophile hunters Christopher Schofield and Danny Holding invented the fictional girl and filmed the encounter in Leigh, Greater Manchester, on a mobile phone. The video went viral with more than two million views.

At Bolton Crown Court, Sladdin was jailed for 12 months after he pleaded guilty to sexual grooming and attempting to meet a girl under the age of 16.

Anyone with information about child sex crimes should contact the police on 101, online through Derbyshire police's website or by anonymously calling Crimestoppers.