A Wiltshire-based paedophile hunter is warning members of the public who are considering setting up as paedophile hunters to ‘think hard’ before they do.
Danny Catcher, who’s caught many suspects who are currently progressing through the justice system, says ‘suspects could be armed’ and ‘identifying them before court could see cases collapse’.
Since starting in May 2017, he’s caught ten suspects in Wiltshire and Somerset, leading to two conviction so far. One was a now-former Royal Mail executive from Gloucester.
Danny Catcher is well-supported as he doesn’t stream stings live on Facebook, not does he reveal the identity of a suspect before they are convicted of the offence – to avoid case complications.
Paedophile hunters are described as vigilantes, who set up profiles purporting to be children online and engage in conversations with adults who wish to meet them for sexual activity.
In a statement released on his Facebook page, which carries more than 4,000 likes, he said: “People think being a paedophile hunter is easy. It’s not. I’ve seen a few posts about people wanting to start and I must make you aware of some things I’ve found since doing this:
“1) You’re always looking over your shoulder. However well you think you’ve hidden your identity, it can be found – believe me. Some people will want revenge.
“2) It’s dangerous. When you go to meet a suspect, anything could happen. Is the suspect armed with a knife or other weapon?
“3) If the suspect does a runner, and you chase him (or her) to their death, you’re looking at a manslaughter charge. This is from conversation I’ve had with senior officers following an incident during one of my own stings. Furthermore, when there run, there are often chances for them to delete vital evidence from their phones.
“4) The suspect could have a disability. Safeguarding vulnerable people is important. You may think that you’ve caught a paedophile, when actually, you’ve caught someone with the mental age of a 12-year-old – meaning it’ll never go to court anyway.
“5) How you conduct stings is important. It’s innocent until proven guilty in this country. Despite how much evidence you have, you CANNOT announce someone has guilty until they’ve been convicted through the justice system. Naming and shaming or live steaming stings can dramatically affect a case – and has known to cause cases to collapse. After all, you’re serving a type of justice – it’s bound to have some affect.
“6) It’s not a five minute job. The whole process of talking to a suspect, collecting evidence (correctly) and then meeting them eats into any free time you have. And, it doesn’t end there. Following a ‘catch’, you’re required to provide a statement (for 2-5 hours) and then go to court if there’s a trial (for up to 4 days). And, if you don’t go to court, the case will fall apart.
“7) If your knowledge of the law is minimal – don’t attempt to hunt paedophiles. You may end up catching them, but will your evidence stand up in court? There’s a real chance that your unprofessional collection of evidence could release a suspect back onto the streets.
“I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m saying, please think hard before you start paedophile hunting. There’s lots to consider.”
Though, Wiltshire Police is understood to be against paedophile hunters, siding with the National Policing Lead on Child Abuse Investigation Chief Constable, Simon Bailey.
He said: “The police service is committed to tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse in all its forms.
“We have invested in more undercover resources and other covert resources to catch those seeking to groom children online and we are already starting to see more of these offenders being brought to justice.
“We understand the desire to protect children but any member of the public who has information about child sexual abuse, online or otherwise, should get in contact with the police so we can investigate and bring people to justice. So called paedophile hunters are taking risks they don’t understand and can undermine police investigations.
“Revealing the identity of suspected paedophiles gives the suspect the opportunity to destroy evidence before the police can investigate them. It can jeopardise ongoing police investigations and these people have no way of safeguarding child victims. It also leads to people who have been identified going missing or raising concerns for their safety. This can divert significant resources into protecting suspects, which would be better invested in investigating and, where there is evidence, prosecuting them.
“There is also the risk of wrongly accusing someone; if someone is wrongly accused of being a paedophile in a hugely public way that makes people who live with them, live near them, work with them assume they have committed the offence. The temptation to kill themselves may be just as great even if they are innocent; that is an appalling consequence to contemplate.
“If any member of the public has concerns about online grooming, they should report them to their local police, to CEOP at www.ceop.police.uk, or to Crimestoppers. If you think a child is at immediate risk of harm call 999”.
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