Derbyshire police speak out against 'paedophile hunters'
Derbyshire police chiefs have spoken out against so-called 'paedophile hunters'.
Chief Superintendent Mark Knibbs, of Derbyshire Constabulary, and Hardyal Dhindsa, the county's Police and Crime Commissioner, have both urged people to report cases of child abuse to the force immediately.
'Paedophile hunters' regularly pose as children online to snare suspected sexual predators.
They often arrange to meet up with the alleged offenders in stings which are broadcast on the hunters' Facebook pages.
They insist they are helping to protect children.
'I do not advocate becoming a 'vigilante'
Chf Supt Knibbs, head of crime support at Derbyshire Constabulary, said: "Tackling abuse of children is, of course, a leading priority for Derbyshire police. They are horrific crimes and we are determined to tackle them as robustly as possible.
"With regards the complex issue of 'paedophile activists', whilst we acknowledge that many take part with the best of intentions and we recognise that they have a degree of public support, we must continue to strongly recommend that they don't carry out this type of activity.
"Vigilante groups, in almost every context, are not only compromising their own personal safety, but often put at risk the welfare and safety of those they target, as well as running the risk of jeopardising investigations and corrupting evidence that could potentially be required in court. Whilst bringing these abhorrent offenders to justice, it's crucial that we are not derailed by such issues.
"I would, therefore, ask that anyone with any information about child abuse provides it to the police as early and as quickly as possible.
"Members of the public can do so by calling 101, online through our website or by anonymously calling Crimestoppers."
Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa said: "There is no denying that there is some public sympathy with these groups and of course it is imperative that as a society we do everything we can to protect vulnerable young people.
"But I do not advocate becoming a 'vigilante', however well-intentioned.
"Anyone with any concerns about the safety of any vulnerable young person or child should contact the police immediately.
"They are trained to gather evidence for a prosecution as opposed to such evidence potentially being compromised."
Their comments come after Simon Bailey, chief constable of Norfolk Police, told the Press Association: "I can't deny they've led to convictions, but they've also led to people being blackmailed, people being subject of GBH (grievous bodily harm), the wrong people being accused, people committing suicide as a result of interventions, family lives being completely destroyed, in the name of what? Facebook likes."
Cases of 'paedophile hunters' at work in Derbyshire
In March, Derby Crown Court heard how 'paedophile hunters' forced a Shirebrook man out of his property and on to the streets as a homeless man after they exposed him with an online trap.
In April, Southern Derbyshire Magistrates' Court heard a Derbyshire dad whose job involved working at schools has 'brought shame on his family' and 'lost everything' since being caught in a sting organised by 'paedophile hunters'.