'Paedophile hunters' making things worse
News that loyalist paramilitaries are using so-called paedophile hunter websites to target men for punishment attacks shows the danger of self-appointed vigilantes attempting to create some kind of community justice system.
There is no public sympathy for men who prey on children for sexual purposes, but as the police point out, the proper approach is for anyone with information on such activity to bring it to the attention of the PSNI, which is the only legitimate force of law and order in this society.
Police have the capability of ensuring that evidence is gathered to the standard required for a successful prosecution. Vigilante groups entrapping suspected paedophiles run the risk of contaminating the due processes of the law or falsely accusing people of a crime.
A more sinister element has been added to the equation by loyalist terrorists, who are now using information posted online to target people for assault.
These paramilitaries are people guilty of the most heinous crimes up to and including murder, and they certainly have no right to set themselves up as judge and jury on anyone and then mete out their own barbaric punishments.
After all, the paramilitaries, through their drug dealing, have poisoned the minds and bodies of countless young people, and it is cynicism of the highest level for them to take on the role of defenders of their communities against suspected paedophiles or anyone else.
These terrorists obviously hope to tap into public abhorrence of paedophilic behaviour and also the revelations in recent years that Churches and state organisations covered up such behaviour.
But it is always inexcusable to grant any legitimacy to paramilitary punishment beatings or shootings. These have been on the increase in recent times and show the determination of these thugs to rule their communities with an iron fist. They are not guided by any morality, but rather by self-preservation and the desire to keep bleeding their communities dry.
The self-styled paedophile hunters may be motivated by a genuine desire to bring sex offenders to the attention of the authorities, but now must realise that more sinister forces are using their websites for their own purposes. They should follow police advice, close down the sites, and give any evidence of criminal behaviour to the legitimate forces of law and order.