So-called paedophile hunter used own teenage daughter as ‘honey trap’, Norfolk police chief claims
- Credit: Steve Adams
Norfolk's police chief constable has criticised the 'inappropriate' tactics of so-called paedophile hunters - including one who used their own teenage daughter as a honey trap.
Simon Bailey spoke out against the online groups as it emerged 'paedophile hunter' evidence was used to charge 150 suspects in England and Wales last year, including six in Norfolk.
The groups use what they call 'decoys' to pose as underage children and wait to be contacted by adults.
Once they have identified those attempting to groom young people, they track them down and often live stream the confrontations on social media.
But Mr Bailey, who also leads the National Police Chiefs' Council on child protection, said the groups were taking 'unnecessary risks'.
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And he said of the 1,000 stings - that he is aware of - carried out by hunters in the past 12 months, just 15pc have resulted in convictions.
Mr Bailey said: 'That is then masking the far, far bigger problem of extortion, blackmail and of other criminal activity, and damage being done to children and families by these groups, who quite frankly, in my experience, don't care.
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'They are using tactics which are inappropriate.
'I am aware of one group that used their own daughter, [who was] 13 or 14 as the honey trap. What about safeguarding around children?'
In an interview with BBC Radio Norfolk, Mr Bailey said while there had been a rise in the amount of their evidence being used for convictions, it had to be put into context.
He said police across the UK were arresting 450 people every month for viewing, uploading and sharing child imagery, as well as for grooming children online.
'We are safeguarding 700 children every month,' Mr Bailey added. 'So when you look at the numbers these vigilante groups have provided evidence for, it is a tiny drop in the ocean.
'They are taking unnecessary risks, they are putting the lives of children potentially at risk and they are potentially compromising our operations.
'It is not as if they cant say the police service's response to this threat is not good. Because it is the best in the world. They should be allowing us to get on with our job.'
He said the bigger issue was that if social media companies were to 'do their job properly', vigilante groups would be put out of business.
He added that it would also lower demand on already stretched police resources, allowing officers to focus on more sophisticated offenders who are able to mask their identity.
Mr Bailey claimed that social media companies responsible for providing the platforms for people to upload images or go online to groom children were 'permitting' and 'allowing' it to happen.
'If at some point, as a result of coverage of data like this, that it starts to damage brands, I suspect shareholders will start to ask the difficult questions,' Mr Bailey added.
Mr Bailey also talked about the resources for Norfolk Police.
He said there are 400 fewer 'uniforms' in Norfolk compared to 10 years ago, but added he was doing 'his best' to ensure visibility is there.