Belfast Telegraph

We're watching you, PSNI warns online 'paedophile hunters'

By Victoria Leonard

The PSNI is "proactively" monitoring social media and websites belonging to self-styled vigilante paedophile hunter groups.

It comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed that two alleged paedophiles who were "outed" online had been attacked by loyalist terrorists.

The men, who were named on a Facebook page, both live in the greater Belfast area.

They were targeted by the UDA.

It was reported yesterday that so-called paedophile hunters had brought 77 incidents to police attention since June, and that the Public Prosecution Service was considering three of those cases.

Detective Chief Inspector David McBurney from the PSNI's Public Protection Branch revealed that the organisation was "aware of a number of incidents following these hunter group live streams".

He also said that police were aware of "an incident where a member of the public has been mistakenly identified".

Describing the groups' actions as "a concern", he added: "It is the role of the Police Service of Northern Ireland to deal with those allegedly involved in this type of crime and the subsequent investigations.

"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.

"Those involved in this type of vigilante behaviour aren't in a position to ensure safeguarding issues are addressed and their actions could not only harm innocent people, but could also have a detrimental impact on the criminal justice process."

Appealing for the groups to desist, DCI McBurney added: "We would again ask that if these groups are motivated to help safeguard children, they need to bring any information they have about the identity of any person engaged in sexual offences against children to the PSNI immediately.

"These groups should not make arrangements to meet these individuals and should not share that information online.

"We need them to come to us with their information so that we can convert it into evidence and ensure a thorough investigation is carried out, including gathering the best possible evidence to enable effective investigations that produce a charge and successful prosecution."

Last August the potential consequences of publicly exposing alleged paedophiles were revealed when a man took his own life after being confronted by vigilantes in Co Antrim.

And last week another group posted a picture of a car it said had been "wrongly targeted following a sting in east Belfast".

A picture of the white vehicle showed the word 'Pedo' spray-painted on its door. The group said that it had offered to pay for the damage, but that the car was repaired by a garage free of charge, and thanked the mechanic for "being a top lad".

The PSNI said it had received no reports of the incident.

Chief Superintendent Paula Hillman told the BBC that the PPS was considering three of the 77 cases reported by vigilante groups since last summer.

She urged the groups to "stop what they're doing in terms of turning up at people's doorsteps, identifying people, acting as the arresting officer and as the judge and jury".

Belfast Telegraph

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