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  1. ITV Report

Police warning over 'paedophile hunters' who take the law into their own hands

Police say they are concerned about self-styled paedophile hunters who set up undercover sting operations amid fears they are interfering in their work and potentially entrapping innocent people.

Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent

Kent Police says it has significant concerns about people taking the law into their own hands and the methods used following recent stings by vigilante groups.

The latest incident happened at Bluewater Shopping Centre near Dartford on Easter Sunday when a brawl erupted after a group confronted a man suspected of grooming a teenage girl.

Live broadcasts of vigilantes confronting suspected groomers were streamed online. The group involved has since said it will no longer go live on stings.

Chief Superintendent Thomas Richards, head of Kent Police's public protection unit, said evidence-gathering was a specialist job that takes time and skill to bring an offender to justice.

We do have significant concerns about people taking the law into their own hands and the methods they use, and in some cases acting outside of the law, and would strongly advise against getting involved in, or setting up activities to entrap those suspected of intending to commit offences.

Although seemingly well-meaning, this can significantly hinder our work, compromise on-going investigations and negate months of investigative work. There is also the risk that it can potentially identify people who are completely innocent and mistakenly associate them with grooming offences.

– Chief Superintendent Thomas Richards, Kent Police public protection unit