With so called ‘Paedophile Hunters’ becoming more and more common, the question cannot help but be asked: Are they a help or a hindrance to the law?
Bordering On Vigilantism
With the police unable to monitor and identify all online grooming, it is inevitable that now and again there will be occurrences. In an ideal world, the police would be able to pre-empt any illicit online behaviour, especially when the intention is to groom and meet a child.
Some would argue that it was only a matter of time until individuals sought to take the law into their own hands, especially with a crime as heinous as child sexual abuse. Whist the intentions of Paedophile hunters may be well placed, their activities are sometimes criticised by the police as that of vigilantes.
Their modus operandi is to create a fake online profile as, say, a 14 year old girl, so as to entice any sex offender with malicious intent. They then engage in conversation, which will usually take the form of grooming, and ultimately arrange to meet him at an agreed location. Sometimes they take the police along, and on other occasions go it alone to entrap the unsuspecting paedophile.
Due to the principle law of entrapment, any evidence obtained through trickery – for instance posing as a child online to entrap a potential sexual predator – has a high risk of being excluded, meaning a potential paedophile could avoid punishment. Police have been very vocal about evidence being rejected because it was wrongfully acquired, for instance using threats or blackmail.
Police could benefit from working in partnership with concerned members of their community like the so called paedophile hunters, but instead seem to be at odds with them. While a firm stance must be taken by the police against any individual attempting to take the law into their own hands, it could perhaps be beneficial in the future if some sort of corroboration was achieved between authorities and members of the public such as these.
While some of these ‘stings’ have been shown to be successful to an extent – and resulted in successful convictions, anyone who tries to out paedophiles in the manner in which the paedophile hunters utilise needs to be aware that, only evidence that is collected professionally by trained law enforcement representatives has a good chance of being used in court. Whilst the police will admit that some evidence can be used, a lot has to be rejected because of the way it has been obtained.
The Police simply cannot authorise any member of the public, or non-professional, to collect evidence unchecked because of the risks involved.
Has Your Child Been Abused?
If you or your child has been abused, then you may be entitled to compensation. Abuse is both a physically and psychologically damaging ordeal, and while a successful compensation claim may not heal these wounds, it can help provide you with the support you need to ensure your future is bright.