Police tell 'paedophile hunters' what they need for courts - but say stop what you're doing
Police have given so-called paedophile hunter groups in Northern Ireland a 30-point checklist on what is needed in order to allow officers to bring a case to court.
However, stressing it is not an advisory for the groups to assist them in their actions a senior police officer has told them to stop what they are doing and instead report what they know to the PSNI.
The BBC Stephen Nolan show said it had obtained a 30-point checklist given to a group by the PSNI which stated the evidence required for taking cases to court.
Police are working through over 100 cases involving these groups and their confrontations with individuals.
In recent months there has been an escalation in groups confronting people using online live streaming services on social media with evidence they have collected of suspected paedophile behaviour.
In one incident the man confronted was a case of mistaken identity and in others paramilitaries have attacked those confronted.
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Superintendent Paula Hillman said the letter to the groups was put together after the confrontations were live streamed online and after talks with the Public Prosecution Service.
"This was about us collecting evidence as we do with any investigation," she said.
"We in the PSNI are committed to safeguarding children and young people. We understand this is very emotive area but the way to deal with it is through policing, working in accordance with the law and human rights.
"If anyone has information, they should pass a message to us. We are the lawful authority and we will investigate. That is our role and we will do it. Pass the message to us, do not carry out confrontations.
"This is not guidance to help. This is us carrying out our statutory role. This is what the letter is because we don't have this evidence."
She said police were working through over 100 cases of such confrontations taking place and so far three were going before the courts.
"Hence the need to investigate and hence the letter as we need that evidence," she said.
"We need to look at each case on a case-by-case basis to see what is the best way to collate this evidence," she added.
"Our message is clear ... the way to do this is not by confrontation, it is by passing any information to the police.
"We did consult with the Public Prosecution Service on writing the letter. We have raised how evidence is collected by these groups.
"We talk about files, these are files waiting and we will have to make an assessment as to if we submit the files with that evidence.
"People who are concerned about the safeguarding of children - and I get that I am a mother of teenagers myself - but the way to deal with that is to come to us, the police service."
Belfast Telegraph Digital