Police warn paedophile hunters against vigilantism after five arrests
Three men and two women are detained in Leeds on suspicion of wrongly imprisoning alleged abusers
Self-styled paedophile hunters are being urged not to take justice into their own hands after five people were arrested on Monday on suspicion of wrongly imprisoning members of the public.
West Yorkshire Police says the arrests of three men and two women in Leeds should “remind self-styled vigilantes to leave the job of confronting suspected abusers to them”, reports Sky News. All five suspects have been released on bail pending further investigation into their alleged offences, which include assault and public order violations.
The force said that protecting children from abuse was a “top priority” and that any concerns about “illegal internet activity of potential child abusers” should be reported.
“We are also concerned about the activities of online child abuse activist groups and their exposure activity in confronting persons they have identified,” said a spokesperson.
“We urge members of such exposure groups not to carry out this activity and instead to report suspected offences.”
Increasing numbers of paedophile hunters – “many with ominous names such as Dark Justice” – have been operating across the UK over the last decade, reports The Independent.
The vigilantes say their goal is to keep children safe online. They claim their activities are often supported by rank-and-file officers, says the newspaper.
Last year, Freedom of Information requests by the BBC uncovered a seven-fold increase in police forces using evidence from vigilante groups to charge suspects.
But senior officials across the country have repeatedly expressed concern about their activities.
Jeff Cuthbert, police and crime commissioner for Gwent, told Wales Online that although anti-paedophile activists had been involved in a “significant number” of convictions, those successes needed to be seen in a wider context.
“What we don’t know, of course, is how many potential perpetrators have got away with it because it’s not been done properly, or walked away because it’s not stood up in court,” he said.