Pedophile Hunters Arrested, jeopardize police investigations

A pair of so-called “pedophile hunters” have been arrested by police as officers begin a crackdown on social media vigilantes.

Police issued the warning after violence broke out in Bluewater shopping centre in Kent last week during a sting set up by a group known as The Hunted One.

Typically the group’s volunteers would start chatting with online predators after posing as underage children online and would then stream live footage of members pouncing on suspected sexual predators.

But the sting descended into violence, and two people were charged with public order offenses in connection with the disturbance at Bluewater Shopping Centre on Easter Sunday.

Brawl at Bluewater 
Brawl at Bluewater  Credit: PA

Lee John Harvey, 20, from Gravesend, and Joe Simpkin, 20, from Erith, each face a charge of affray when they appear at Medway Magistrates’ Court on May 10.

Meanwhile, Mirza Mispa Beg, 29, of no fixed address, has been charged with grooming.

Following the news police chiefs warned that self-styled paedophile hunters – who pose as children online to catch potential sexual predators – can jeopardize police investigations.

Chief constable Simon Bailey, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said such actions could lead to diverting significant resources into the protection of suspects.

Police Chief Constable Simon Bailey
Chief Constable Simon Bailey Credit: PA

Bailey, the national policing lead on child abuse investigation, told the Guardian so-called paedophile hunters who reveal the identity of suspected paedophiles could give suspects “the opportunity to destroy evidence before the police can investigate them”.

Kent Police have confirmed a further two men suspected of being involved in pedophile hunting related activity have also been arrested.

Two men had been arrested on suspicion of impersonating a police officer and false imprisonment, a spokesman for the force said.

“One man, 43, from Blackheath in London, was arrested at around 11am on Friday 21 April 2017. The second man, aged 34, from Maidstone, was arrested at midday the same day.

“The man from Blackheath was also arrested on suspicion of possessing cannabis with intent to supply. Both were subsequently bailed.”

During the incident at Bluewater, onlookers joined in and tried to attack a man who had allegedly turned up to meet a child, while the group live-streamed the sting operation.

While the group claim more than 250 offenders across the country have been jailed as a result of such stings, Kent Police have been proactive in warning against vigilantism.

Chief Superintendent Thomas Richards, head of Kent Police’s public protection unit, said: “We understand people’s concerns regarding the internet activity of potential paedophiles.

“Evidence-gathering is a very specialist job and can take considerable time and skill to ensure it is of sufficient quality to bring a high risk offender to justice.

“I would therefore urge anyone who believes they have information or evidence of online grooming, or knows that a suspect is planning to meet a potential victim, to contact Kent Police at the earliest opportunity so that police officers can deal with these meetings and capture the best possible evidence.

“We do have significant concerns about people taking the law into their own hands and the methods they use, and in some cases acting outside of the law, and would strongly advise against getting involved in, or setting up activities to entrap those suspected of intending to commit offenses.”

Following Sunday’s incident, The Hunted said in a statement on its Twitter account that after careful consideration they would no longer be “going live” for stings.

Via: telegraph

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