SPECIAL REPORT: 'Paedophile hunters' aim to help keep Derbyshire kids safe

Keeping Kids Safe claims to have helped police arrest nearly 25 suspected sexual predators.
Keeping Kids Safe claims to have helped police arrest nearly 25 suspected sexual predators.

'Paedophile hunters' have pledged to help protect Derbyshire's children.

The Keeping Kids Safe group was set up in April and includes Chesterfield man George Hunter and Patrick Fripps, of Mansfield.

The organisation claims to have helped police arrest nearly 25 individuals both locally and nationally in the last three months.

Keeping Kids Safe is made up of more than 20 'paedophile hunters' who regularly pose as children online to snare suspected sexual predators.

They arrange to meet up with the alleged offenders in stings which are broadcast on the group's Facebook page.

Information and evidence are passed on to the police.

Patrick said: "Keeping Kids Safe is a group of caring parents.

"We aim to track down groomers who prey on vulnerable children online and also act as an effective deterrent.

"We now have a larger than ever team to help get predators off our streets.

"We don't get paid nor do we get any funding – but we will do all we can to protect our children.

"If you engage in this type of criminal behaviour, there's a strong chance we'll find you – and you will be arrested."

George said: "The police and public are very grateful for what we do.

"A lot of people criticise us and call us 'vigilantes' – but we go about things the right way."

He added: "Moving forward, we want to work with local schools and youth groups to raise awareness of internet safety.

"And we want to get across this important message to parents – make sure your children are safe online.

"Know what they’re up to and who they’re speaking to."

'Paedophile hunters' became known in 2014 when Channel 4 aired a documentary called The Paedophile Hunter, which followed Stinson Hunter and his associates as they posed as children online to catch potential sex offenders.

The same year, an inquest heard that 45-year-old Michael Parkes killed himself after being confronted and filmed by Hunter.

Parkes had been arrested – but not charged – by Northamptonshire police on suspicion of meeting someone he thought to be a 12-year-old girl for sex.

'There are risks when members of the public take the law into their own hands'

Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for child protection, 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.

"'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's 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's an appalling consequence to contemplate."

An NSPCC spokesman added: "While we have every sympathy for people concerned about suspected abusers, there are risks when members of the public take the law into their own hands.

"It can run the risk of driving offenders underground, jeopardise ongoing and complex police work or result in innocent people being harassed – all of which may put more children at risk of harm."

'I think they do a fantastic job'

Commenting on Facebook page, Amber-Leigh Hankin said: "They (paedophile hunters) have my full admiration and support."

Gordon White said: "Policing should be left to the professionals."

Kieron Siddall said: "I think there are many pros and cons but the main thing is that they (paedophiles) are being found."

Marilyn Thomas said: "I think they do a fantastic job and should keep up the good work."

Matthew Butler said: "They should be funded by the Government. They do a great job getting scumbags off the streets."

And Rachael Hill said: "There are too many paedophiles living in every town."