Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: Identities of Northern Ireland self-styled 'paedophile hunters'

By Allan Preston and Mark Edwards

A BBC NI report has revealed the identity of two so-called paedophile hunters in Northern Ireland.

Investigative reporter Kevin Magee's story was broadcast in full yesterday evening, showing extended footage of an angry group confronting him in an expletive-laden rant at a Belfast cafe.

The Newsline report stated that up to 10 paedophile-hunting groups operate in Northern Ireland, all acting anonymously.

Their methods include approaching members of the public they believe to be sexual predators, broadcasting the encounter live on the internet, and in some cases forcibly detaining the individual and calling the police.

During his investigation, Mr Magee approached two people thought to be involved in the groups for comment.

The first was a woman who had been operating under the pseudonym Chelsea Lewis.

Her true identity has now been revealed as Sharon Shanks. She declined to answer Mr Magee's questions on camera while still sitting in the back seat of a car, pulling a scarf over her face to conceal her identity.

The second approach was to George Keenan, who had been going by the name of James O'Neil online.

Last week he filmed Mr Magee as the reporter attempted to interview him outside his house.

And in footage broadcast last Tuesday night, Keenan led a mob of paedophile hunters trying to intimidate Mr Magee.

Last night, many voiced their support for the vigilantes on Facebook.

But one Facebook user asked "how come not one of the people you catch are ever prosecuted or convicted?" The group administrator replied: "We only started at the end of November last year. Investigation into our allegations by the PSNI aren't complete yet."

However, PSNI sources have already said flawed evidence from paedophile hunters means there is little hope of successful prosecutions.

Earlier, DUP MP Ian Paisley hit out at the BBC for "going after" paedophile hunters rather than online child predators. He was responding to a Stephen Nolan tweet about his interview with a Facebook vigilante.

"Why does the BBC not go after paedophiles? I suppose they have special rights," the MP stated.

Asked to elaborate, Mr Paisley said: "I am just posing the question, 'When are the BBC going to pursue the paedophiles rather the paedophile hunters?'"

Asked if he condoned the actions of the so-called paedophile hunter groups operating here, the North Antrim MP said: "I have no comment on that, I am just asking the question. I just think it is interesting the BBC has spent a lot of resources and have done a programme on paedophile hunters."

A BBC spokesperson said: "We are satisfied that this investigation has dealt with important issues of public interest. We have investigated many cases of abusers which are also in the public interest and will continue to do so."

Belfast Telegraph

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