'Paedophile sting' video at Belfast Tesco - police warning to vigilante group
The PSNI says enquiries are continuing after a vigilante group posted a video claiming to show a paedophile arriving at a north Belfast supermarket to meet what he thought would be a 14-year-old boy.
The self-styled online child protection group claimed that the man filmed outside Tesco Yorkgate had "engaged in sexually explicit chat including sending sexual pictures", "stated intentions" and "had condoms and turned up to facilitate the meet".
The PSNI confirmed it had arrested a 37-year-old man in Belfast on suspicion of meeting a child following sexual grooming on Tuesday, December 5.
He was later released on bail and has not yet been charged.
Officers subsequently carried out a search of a property in the city and took away a number of items for examination.
The video posted clearly shows the man's face as he is confronted by two members of the group, who chase him through Yorkgate before losing him in a residential area.
It was temporarily removed from the group's Facebook site before being reposted, and has now received more than 300 'likes' and more than 40 shares.
However, the PSNI warned that such activity could "potentially undermine ongoing police investigations".
Earlier this year a man took his own life after being confronted by a "paedophile hunter" group calling itself Silent Justice.
Detective Chief Inspector David McBurney of the PSNI's Public Protection Branch said: "It is the role of the Police Service of Northern Ireland to deal with those allegedly involved in this type of crime, not others. We are the professionals with the expert knowledge and experience to carry out rigorous investigations to the required evidential standard.
"We are the legitimate police service and we are accountable. These groups are not. They do not have the transparency or the structures which underpin the police service and could potentially undermine ongoing police investigations. The PSNI are committed to tackling this issue and work closely with our partner agencies when carrying out investigations to ensure the safeguarding of children and identification of offenders.
"Indeed, since April this year our child internet protection team alone have carried out 85 searches and made 51 arrests in relation to people making/viewing/distributing indecent images online.
"Those involved in this type of vigilante behaviour aren't in a position to ensure safeguarding issues are addressed and their actions could have a detrimental impact on the criminal justice process.
"If these groups are motivated to help safeguard children, they need to bring the information they have to police as soon as they have it and we will take all the necessary steps required to ensure a thorough investigation is carried out including appropriate evidence gathering.
"We will also ensure safeguarding issues are addressed and appropriate risk assessments are carried out.
"I would urge anyone with information in relation to this type of crime to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."