Nottinghamshire Police to form partnership with vigilante paedophile hunter groups
Vigilante paedophile hunters could soon begin working even more closely with Nottinghamshire Police.
The force already works closer with the groups than most other places in Britain but now those links could be formalised and enhanced.
The online groups aim to trap paedophiles, and while they have proved controversial in some areas, Nottinghamshire Police has a policy of investigating all evidence it is handed.
It says it has worked with 15 different vigilante hunters and has successfully brought justice to dangerous paedophiles thanks to information from those groups.
In the year to April 2018, the most recent period for which data is available, the police said that information from the groups led to 47 arrests and 26 convictions.
Now, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire, Paddy Tipping, has said he hopes to bring the groups round a table with the police, to have a discussion about how they operate.
Mr Tipping said: “We need to have a better relationship with the paedophile hunting groups.
“The national advice is not to work with these groups because there are dangers, but these groups aren’t going to go away.
“So I think we need to have a discussion with them and to try to advise them.”
When asked whether this would involve coaching the groups on how to catch online predators, Mr Tipping said: “That’s one of several issues that are up for discussion.
“Part of the real problem is not prejudicing the evidence by the way you collect it, and the second issue is at the point of arrest.
“I’m not encouraging it at all, (paedophile hunting groups) but I know that a number of arrests have been made, not just in Nottinghamshire but across the country. We’ve got to recognise the situation and try to improve the relationship.
“This isn’t going to go away. I can’t stop people doing this, and I think we’ve got to have a sensible, difficult discussion about what we might jointly do together.”
When asked whether he was considering funding the groups, Mr Tipping said: “No. We don’t want to fund them full stop. But I do think we need a better way of working with them.”
But the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) said while they may consider working with these groups in certain instances, “it is not the solution to the problem of abuse”.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey, NPCC lead for child protection, said: “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.
“We may consider working with these groups in certain instances, if it helps us protect children and we can manage the risks of their involvement.
“But this is not the solution.”