Paedophile hunters and online grooming offences

The request was partially successful.

Dear Avon and Somerset Constabulary,

1a. Please provide the number of arrests you made in 2019/20 regarding online sexual offences of any kind related to children.

1b. Please provide a breakdown of all the sexual offences associated with these arrests:

e.g. section 8 of SOA 2003 [insert number]; section 10 of SOA 2003 [insert number]; section 12 of SOA 2003 [insert number] section 14 of SOA 2003 [insert number]; and section 15 of SOA [insert number]; section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 [insert number].

1c. Please specify the number of these arrests that involved at least one child decoy. By 'child decoy' I am referring to an adult who pretends to be a child.

2. Please provide the number of arrests you made in 2019/20 in connection with online sexual offences against children based on evidence acquired by your own officers acting as decoys.

3. Please provide the number of arrests you made in 2019/20 in connection with online sexual offences against children based on evidence provided to you by so-called paedophile hunters.

4. Please provide the names of all so-called paedophile hunting groups who provided information to you that led to the arrest of individuals in connection with sexual offences against children in 2019/20.

Yours faithfully,

D Moore

D. Moore left an annotation ()

Academic paper by Jon Purshouse (School of Law, University of East Anglia) seriously questions the activities of so-called paedophile hunters:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf...

'The muted response of the police, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and domestic courts to paedophile hunters is failing to deter their criminality. The article ends with suggestions for reappraisal of existing legal doctrines, law reform, and more rigorous enforcement to control and, in some cases, deter paedophile hunting.'

J Roberts left an annotation ()

I see the article by Joe Purshouse was first published on 17th June 2020, a month before the Supreme Court gave judgment in the case of someone caught in Scotland by a team 'paedophile hunters' :

[2020] UKSC 32

http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKSC/2020...

See comment dated 15 July 2020:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

Story from The Independent:

"‘Paedophile hunters’ do not violate right to privacy, Supreme Court rules as convict's appeal dismissed"

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/cr...

Thornbury man questioned:

https://www.bitchute.com/video/JUkPPODGn...

Thornbury man sent to jail:

https://uk-database.net/2019/06/07/derek...

Other videos from the area:

https://www.bitchute.com/video/frKsHy1Nm... (STOP)

https://www.bitchute.com/video/p1urjYlh5... (Child Online Safety Team - COST)

https://www.bitchute.com/video/qLxO7gd5i... (Wolf Pack Hunters UK)

https://www.bitchute.com/video/85gfncUp4...

Find more videos here:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1...

#Freedom of Information Requests, Avon and Somerset Constabulary

Thank you for your request for information. Your request will now be considered and you will receive a response within the statutory timescale of 20 working days as defined by the Act. In some circumstances Avon and Somerset Constabulary may be unable to achieve this deadline if consideration needs to be given to the public interest test. If this is likely you will be informed and given a revised time-scale at the earliest opportunity.

show quoted sections

D. Moore left an annotation ()

"'Paedophile hunter' evidence used to charge 150 suspects" (2017)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-43...

"Strategic review of Police Scotland’s response to online child sexual abuse" (February 2020)

“Almost half of the online grooming cases emanate from the activities of online child abuse activist groups (vigilante groups), who are unregulated and untrained. A more robust proactive capability on the part of Police Scotland would reduce the opportunities for these groups to operate.” (page 5)

https://www.hmics.scot/sites/default/fil...

BBC Radio 4 programme The Untold goes on a "sting" with Leeds-based hunting group Predator Exposure:

"Six of the group went on trial accused of charges including false imprisonment and common assault. They were all found not guilty and emerged from Leeds Crown Court vowing to step up the work that they do."

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000hv9p

See the group in action:

https://youtu.be/_gfRmagvltk

Useful information provided by South Yorkshire Police from the Force Disclosure Log:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

J Roberts left an annotation ()

Radio 4's File on 4 dealt with the issue of female sex offenders in "Women Who Abuse":

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000rcq5

The programme highlighted the case of a female groomer who was jailed in 2018. Details of her crime are available on the UK Database:

https://uk-database.net/2018/03/22/debor...

Thirty-six police forces responded to FOI requests (5th minute). The responses revealed that between 2015-19:

- there were over 10,400 reports of women sexually abusing children

- Over 5,400 reports concerned children aged 11-17

- around 3,800 reports involved children under 11

(some forces didn't provide information on ages)

A FOI request was also sent to the Disclosure and Barring Service. I have requested a copy of the response received:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/f...

"There is evidence more female abusers are being flagged when applying for jobs with children or vulnerable adults than are being reported to the police."

The programme also referred to research by Dr Andrea Darling, who wrote this article on female teachers who abuse pupils:

https://theconversation.com/understandin...

#Freedom of Information Requests, Avon and Somerset Constabulary

1 Attachment

D. Moore Our 006/21
Reference
[FOI #715285 email] Date 22
January
2021

 

Dear D Moore,

 

Re: Request for information dated 2^nd January 2021 under the Freedom of
Information Act.

 

I write in connection with your above request where you asked as follows:-

 

 1. a) Please provide the number of arrests you made in 2019/20 regarding
online sexual offences of any kind related to children.

 

b) Please provide a breakdown of all the sexual offences associated with
these arrests: e.g. section 8 of SOA 2003 [insert number]; section 10 of
SOA 2003 [insert number]; section 12 of SOA 2003 [insert number] section
14 of SOA 2003 [insert number]; and section 15 of SOA [insert number];
section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 [insert number]. 

 

c) Please specify the number of these arrests that involved at least one
child decoy.  By 'child decoy' I am referring to an adult who pretends to
be a child.

 

 2. Please provide the number of arrests you made in 2019/20 in connection
with online sexual offences against children based on evidence
acquired by your own officers acting as decoys.

 

 3. Please provide the number of arrests you made in 2019/20 in connection
with online sexual offences against children based on evidence
provided to you by so-called paedophile hunters.

 

 4. Please provide the names of all so-called paedophile hunting groups
who provided information to you that led to the arrest of individuals
in connection with sexual offences against children in 2019/20. 

 

Our response:

 

The information provided has been identified carrying out a search of
offences relevant to your request where a cyber-tag was attributed.
Therefore the information is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any
large scale recording system. As a consequence, care should be taken to
ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are
taken into account when interpreting those data.

 

There were a total of nine arrests made for sexual offences in 2019/2020
where the victim was under 18 years old and had a cyber-tag attributed. As
requested, a breakdown of theses arrests are below.

 

+------------------------------------------------------------------------+
| SOA Sec 13 | SOA Sec 4 | SOA Sec 48 | SOA Sec 15A | SCA Sec 69 |
|--------------+-------------+--------------+--------------+-------------|
| 1 | 1 | 1 | 5 | 1 |
+------------------------------------------------------------------------+

*SOA – Sexual Offences Act 2003           SCA – Serious Crime Act 2015

 

We have not been able to identify any relevant information in regards to
question three of your request.

 

 

Avon and Somerset Constabulary neither confirms nor denies that it holds
information relevant to questions 1c and 2 of this request by virtue of
the following exemptions.

 

o Section 23(5) Information supplied by or concerning certain Security
Bodies;
o Section 31(3) Law Enforcement
o Section 40(5) Personal Information

 

Section 23 & 40 are class based absolute exemptions and there is no
requirement to consider the public interest in this case.

 

Section 23(5)

 

Confirming or denying the existence of whether any other information is
held would contravene the constrictions laid out within Section 23 of the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 in that this stipulates a generic bar on
disclosure of any information supplied by, or concerning, certain Security
Bodies.

 

Section 40(5A)&(5B)(a)(i):

 

Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 is designed to address
information that is covered by the Data Protection Act 2018. Under section
40(5), Avon and Somerset Constabulary is not required to comply with the
requirements of section 1(1) (a) i.e. the duty to inform the applicant
whether or not the information is held.

 

In most cases Personal Data is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of
Information Act. To confirm or deny whether personal information exists
could publicly reveal information about an identifiable individual or
individuals, thereby breaching the right to privacy afforded to persons
under the Data Protection Act (DPA) and the General Data Protection
Regulation (GDPR) 2018.

 

Where an individual is requesting his or her own personal data the
information is always exempt. Such information can be requested under
other legislation.

Where an individual is requesting third party personal data Avon and
Somerset Constabulary must ensure that any action taken adheres to the
principles of the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR.  To clarify, the
Freedom of Information Act only allows disclosure of personal data if that
disclosure would be compliant with the principles for processing personal
data. These principles are outlined under section 34 of the DPA 2018 and
under Article 5 of the GDPR.

 

Section 31(3)

 

Section 31 is prejudice based and qualified and there is a requirement to
articulate the harm that would be caused in confirming or not whether
information is held as well as carrying out a public interest test. 

 

Harm

As you may be aware, disclosure under FOIA is a release to the public at
large. Whilst not questioning the motives of the applicant, confirming or
denying that any information is held by forces would show areas of police
vulnerability. The public expect police forces and other law enforcement
agencies to use all powers and tactics available to prevent and detect
crime or disorder and maintain public safety.  Law enforcement tactics
would be compromised which would hinder the prevention or detection of
crime if the level of use of such tactics were openly discussed. This
would impact on police resources, more crime would then be committed and
individuals placed at risk.

 

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S31

By confirming or denying whether any relevant information is held, would
allow the public to gain a greater understanding of where public funds are
being spent.  Better public awareness may lead to more information from
the public.

 

Factors against confirmation or denial for S31

Confirming or denying whether any information is held in relation to this
request at this time would not be in the public interest and has potential
to undermine any ongoing investigation. This would ultimately hinder the
prevention and detection of crime. 

 

The public entrust Avon and Somerset Constabulary to handle information
they provide appropriately and in line with legislative guidelines, e.g.
Data Protection Act.  To reveal detail of whether or not such information
is known to the Constabulary would act as a deterrent to the public to
provide information to the force and also hinder the prevention or
detection of crime. 

 

Police forces rely on information being supplied by the public. 
Irrespective of what other information is or isn’t held, by applying
substantive exemptions would indicate that information is held and is
currently being investigated.  Such action would act as a deterrent to the
public to provide intelligence to the force which would further undermine
public safety, with repercussions that could hinder the prevention or
detection of crime. 

 

Balance

 

The points above highlight the merits of confirming or denying whether
information pertinent to this request exists.  The security of the country
is of paramount importance and the Police Service is charged with
enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the
communities we serve. 

 

The Police Service will not divulge whether information is or is not held
if to do so would place the safety of an individual at risk or undermine
national security.  Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency
of policing operations and investigations, providing assurance that the
Police Service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat
from criminals, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding
both national security and the integrity of police operations when
delivering effective operational law enforcement to ensure the prevention
and detection of crime is carried out and the effective apprehension or
prosecution of offenders is maintained.

 

At this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the
balance test favours neither confirming nor denying that information
exists.

 

Of course no inference can be drawn from these facts that any information
in relation to these questions does or does not exist.

 

 

With regards to question four, I am not obliged to provide you with the
information you have requested by virtue of the following exemptions;

 

Section 30(1)(a)(b)(c) -  relating to investigations and proceedings
conducted by a public authority.

Section 38(1) - health and safety.

Section 40(2) – third party information 

 

Section 40(2)

 

Section 40 is an absolute and class based exemption which means that there
is no requirement to identify and evidence the harm that would be caused
by disclosure or consider the public interest. Where an individual is
requesting third party personal data Avon and Somerset Constabulary must
ensure that any action taken adheres to the principles of the Data
Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR.  To clarify, the Freedom of Information
Act only allows disclosure of personal data if that disclosure would be
compliant with the principles for processing personal data. These
principles are outlined under section 34 of the DPA 2018 and under Article
5 of the GDPR.

 

Section 30(1)(a)(b)(c)

 

Section 30 is a qualified and class based exemption which means that there
is no requirement to identify and evidence the harm that would be caused
by disclosure. However there is a requirement to consider the public
interest in disclosure. This exemption applies to information held at any
time for the purposes of an investigation, regardless of whether the case
is ongoing or not.

 

Section 38(1)

 

Section 38 is a qualified and prejudice based exemption therefore as well
as considering the public interest in disclosure, there is a requirement
to articulate the harm that would be caused by disclosure. Please see this
below:

 

Harm in disclosure (Section 38)

The information requested relates to so called ‘paedophile hunting
groups.’ Disclosing information that would name these group could go some
way to members of these group themselves being targeted with vigilante
type behaviour due to the nature of the work they are carrying out. Avon
and Somerset Constabulary ensure that the health and safety of all members
of the public are protected and in this instance the disclosure of this
specific information would infringe on the safety of individuals
involved.     

 

Public Interest Considerations

 

Factors favouring disclosure (Sections 30 and 38)

Disclosure of the requested information may go some way to promote trust
in the police service demonstrating that the constabulary robustly
investigates offences of this nature.

 

Additionally disclosure could lead to a better awareness of this type of
investigation and enable a better informed debate to be undertaken.

 

Factors favouring non-disclosure (Sections 30 and 38)

It is the Association of Chief Police Officers’ approach that information
relating to any investigation will rarely be disclosed under the
provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Disclosure of any
information which has not already been released could reveal investigative
techniques and therefore put the integrity of future investigations of
this kind at risk. Although requests for information are considered on a
case-by-case basis, disclosure on this occasion may set a precedent that
we will release information on any other groups we are aware of. If this
would in any way damage any appeals to convictions, this information would
be deemed exempt.

 

Release of the information is likely to expose individuals involved in
these groups to vigilante type behaviour thus risking harm to their
physical and mental well-being. The constabulary takes their
responsibility to protect both the physical and mental health and safety
of the communities we serve seriously and any information that could
jeopardise this will not be released. The public would lose confidence in
our commitment to protecting the wellbeing of our community.

 

Balancing test

After weighing up the competing interests, I have determined that the
disclosure of the above information would not be in the public interest. I
believe the importance of the factors favouring non-disclosure outweigh
those considerations favouring disclosure.  At this time the potential
harm outweighs any public benefit. There is no further tangible community
benefit in complying with section 1(1)(b) of the Act at this time.  In
accordance with the Act, this letter represents a Refusal Notice for this
part of your request.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Adam Northcott

Disclosure Officer

 

Mail: Freedom of Information, Legal Services Directorate, Avon and
Somerset Constabulary, Force HQ, PO Box 37, Valley Road, Portishead,
BRISTOL, BS20 8QJ

Email  [1][email address]

 

[2]www.avonandsomerset.police.uk  |  Follow us on [3]Twitter and
[4]Facebook

 

Please note:

1.                    Requests and responses may be published on Avon and
Somerset Constabulary’s website (within 24 hours), some of which may

contain a link to additional information, which may provide you with
further clarification.

2.                    Whilst we may verbally discuss your request with you
in order to seek clarification, all other communication should be made in

writing.

3.                    Avon and Somerset Constabulary provides you with the
right to request a re-examination of your case under its review

procedure (copy attached).

show quoted sections

J Roberts left an annotation ()

CPS legal guidance regarding paedophile hunters (July 2020). Paedophile hunting groups are referred to formally as online child abuse activist groups (OCAGs):

'The term OCAGs in this context refers to individuals or groups of individuals who are members of the public using on-line activity to uncover or "catch" alleged paedophiles involved in on-line child sexual abuse or interested in meeting children for the purpose of such abuse. A wide range activity may fall under this umbrella term...'

https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/on...

'Police are encouraged to seek early investigative advice (EIA) in all OCAG cases using the EIA process available in each CPS area. This will assist officers to address any complex evidential issues, to focus their investigation and to bring to an early conclusion cases which are unlikely to meet the required evidential standard.'

Recently published Home Office report titled 'Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy'.

'This ground-breaking Strategy sets out the Government’s ambition to prevent, tackle and respond to all forms of child sexual abuse.

5. Our goal is to ensure there are no safe spaces online for offenders to abuse and exploit children. Across the NCA, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), National Cyber Force (NCF) and wider law enforcement, the Home Office will invest in the development of new technological capabilities to bring more technically sophisticated offenders to justice and help our partners identify and safeguard more victims and survivors. This includes enhancing the use of the UK’s world-leading Child Abuse Image Database (CAID).'

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk...

Dear Avon and Somerset Constabulary,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Avon and Somerset Constabulary's handling of my FOI request 'Paedophile hunters and online grooming offences'.

Investigations and proceedings (Section 30)

You wrote:

'Release of the information is likely to expose individuals involved in these groups to vigilante type behaviour thus risking harm to their physical and mental well-being. The constabulary takes their responsibility to protect both the physical and mental health and safety of the communities we serve seriously and any information that could jeopardise this will not be released. The public would lose confidence in our commitment to protecting the wellbeing of our community.'

My response:

I do not consider that the release of the name would reveal anything about your investigative techniques. Generally, 'paedophile hunters' contact you after they have 'caught' an alleged suspect, and given you their evidence. You then investigate. Much of the work they do is live-streamed on Facebook for all the world to see. For example, here is one that has been reposted on Bitchute by 'Noncepocalypse':

https://www.bitchute.com/video/frKsHy1Nm...

Disclosing their names would reveal no more about your investigative techniques that the groups own videos of encounters with suspects, which is nothing at all.

Harm in disclosure (Section 38)

You wrote:

'The information requested relates to so called ‘paedophile hunting groups.’ Disclosing information that would name these group could go some way to members of these group themselves being targeted with vigilante type behaviour due to the nature of the work they are carrying out. Avon
and Somerset Constabulary ensure that the health and safety of all members of the public are protected and in this instance the disclosure of this specific information would infringe on the safety of individuals involved.'

My response:

As with my previous argument, these groups tend to live stream their encounters with suspects on Facebook. Members of the public can view these encounters. Anyone inclined to target members of such a group could just go on Facebook and find out who they are, and anyone caught by such a group (those most likely to damage the health and safety of paedophile hunters) would already know the name of the group who caught him - the group would have told them. A quick search of the Noncepocalypse spreadsheet reveals the names of numerous paedophile hunting groups that a would-be vigilante could choose from. For example:

1. Children's Innocence Matters (CIM) 2. One Reason 3. Catching Online Predators (COP) 4. Predator Exposure 5. STOP 6. Taxi For Nonce (TFN) 7. Our Team 8. Fleetwood Enforcers 9. Team Impact 10. Wolf Pack Hunters 11. Soloceptors 12. Confronted and Caught 13. Predators Exposed Sting Team (PEST) 14. Child Online Safety Team (COST)..

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1...

Third party information (Section 40(2))

You wrote:
 
Section 40 is an absolute and class based exemption which means that there is no requirement to identify and evidence the harm that would be caused by disclosure or consider the public interest. Where an individual is requesting third party personal data Avon and Somerset Constabulary must
ensure that any action taken adheres to the principles of the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR.  To clarify, the Freedom of Information Act only allows disclosure of personal data if that disclosure would be compliant with the principles for processing personal data. These principles are outlined under section 34 of the DPA 2018 and under Article 5 of the GDPR.

My response:

I consider that the information requested is not personal data because it refers to the name of a group and not an individual. Even if the information constituted personal data, it is not of a nature which goes to the essence of anyone's personality or private life. Additionally, it is not evident from your response that you asked any group caught by my request whether they would object to their name being disclosed. If a group agreed to disclosure, then I do not see how section 40 could be engaged. Time and again paedophile hunting groups when conducting 'stings' stress the importance of sharing their videos, so that more people can see the faces of suspects and consequently more children can be protected. Publicity is the very thing that they want.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

Yours faithfully,

D. Moore

#Freedom of Information Requests, Avon and Somerset Constabulary

 

 

Legal Services Directorate

Force Headquarters, PO Box 37, Valley Road,

Portishead, Bristol, BS20 8QJ

Facsimile 01275 814667

    

 

  Our Ref
06/21
Date
25/01/21

   

 

 

Dear D Moore

 

I acknowledge receipt of your email 24^th January 2021 requesting that
Avon and Somerset Constabulary review its response to your request for
information. 

 

The review will be conducted in accordance to Avon and Somerset
Constabulary’s review procedure and every effort will be made to have a
response to you as soon as possible.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Freedom of Information Officer

Legal Services Directorate

 

Please note;

1.     Whilst we may verbally discuss your request with you in order to
seek clarification, all other communication should be made in writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

show quoted sections

#Freedom of Information Requests, Avon and Somerset Constabulary

D. Moore Our 006/21
Reference
[FOI #715285 email] Date 10
February
2021

 

Dear D Moore,

 

Re: Request for internal review dated 2nd January 2021 under the Freedom
of Information Act.

 

I write in response to your request for an internal review of your recent
FOI application in relation to 'Paedophile hunters and online grooming
offences', namely question four. The purpose of an internal review is to
establish whether the application was processed correctly and in
accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.

 

In your request you asked;

 

1.    a) Please provide the number of arrests you made in 2019/20
regarding online sexual offences of any kind related to children.

 

b) Please provide a breakdown of all the sexual offences associated with
these arrests: e.g. section 8 of SOA 2003 [insert number]; section 10 of
SOA 2003 [insert number]; section 12 of SOA 2003 [insert number] section
14 of SOA 2003 [insert number]; and section 15 of SOA [insert number];
section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 [insert number]. 

 

c) Please specify the number of these arrests that involved at least one
child decoy.  By 'child decoy' I am referring to an adult who pretends to
be a child.

 

2.    Please provide the number of arrests you made in 2019/20 in
connection with online sexual offences against children based on evidence
acquired by your own officers acting as decoys.

 

3.    Please provide the number of arrests you made in 2019/20 in
connection with online sexual offences against children based on evidence
provided to you by so-called paedophile hunters.

 

4.    Please provide the names of all so-called paedophile hunting groups
who provided information to you that led to the arrest of individuals in
connection with sexual offences against children in 2019/20. 

 

I have reviewed your application and I am satisfied that the response from
the Constabulary met the requirements of the Act.

 

It is important to remember that a freedom of Information response is a
disclosure to the world and not just to the person who requests the
information. Every disclosure assessment considers whether the requested
information is already held in the public domain or not. In this instance
I have not been able to identify any information readily accessible to the
public surrounding the names of any group and their association with Avon
and Somerset Constabulary.

 

Whilst a number of these groups do work on social media platforms and
encourage users to share posts, providing the names of any group that Avon
and Somerset Constabulary have received information from may identify
individuals that may have been wrongly targeted by these groups.

 

Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s stance on these groups, which has
previously been documented in several news articles, is that the “evidence
given by the groups in often poor and some do it as cover for extortion
and blackmail”. Therefore any living individual which has been identified
by these groups must be taken into consideration. Whilst the groups
themselves encourage users to share posts, as a force we need to consider
the rights of an individual if they are contained within any posts or
footage shared on these platforms.

 

·         Therefore the implementation of a section 40(2) exemption to
provide the data you have requested has been upheld.

 

As stated in our previous response disclosure of the requested information
may go some way to promote trust in the police service demonstrating that
the constabulary robustly investigates offences of this nature. However
both sides of this argument need to be weighed up.

 

Any information relating to an investigation will unlikely be disclosed
under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. This approach is
upheld by the Association of Chief Police Officers. It is important to
remember that footage shared by these groups should not be taken at ‘face
value.’ Many offences, such as those highlighted by these groups, require
an official police investigation to take place. For this reason, an
investigation which the public authority has a duty to conduct with a view
to it being ascertained (i) whether a person should be charged with an
offence, or (ii) whether a person charged with an offence is guilty of it,
is actioned therefore invoking section 30 of the act. Whilst the name of
the group itself may not action this exemption, should any current/ongoing
investigation in which these groups are mentioned be taking place, there
is the opportunity for those involved to undermine the investigation thus
damaging the ability to convict the individuals involved.

 

·         Therefore the implementation of a section 30(1) exemption to
provide the data you have requested has been upheld.

 

As previously stated in our original response, the release of information
relating to any of these groups is likely to expose individuals therefore
their physical and mental well-being must also be considered. Whilst these
groups encourage the sharing of posts on social media, the physical and
mental well-being of those individuals involved must also be taken into
account. Within a recent news article; Avon and Somerset Constabulary have
stated that the “evidence given by these groups in often poor” therefore
this would reflect that, in some instances, individuals have been released
without charge following on from an official police investigation. The
disclosure of the names of these groups may suggest to members of the
public that Avon and Somerset Constabulary provides trust in external
groups to carry out an investigation for them and may also suggest that a
thorough investigation took place where the individuals mentioned are
guilty. However in some instances this is not the case.

 

This could subsequently encourage members of the public to join/contact
these groups instead of contacting the police and conclude that all the
individuals mentioned by these groups were guilty without an official
police investigation having taken place. Where an individual has been
arrested, subject to an official investigation and found to be cleared of
any wrong doing, any encouragement from the force to view these posts
would most likely put the safety of those individuals at risk. The police
force’s responsibility to put the health and safety of the community in
serves is paramount and releasing information which counteracts this
responsibility would cause serious harm thus resulting to the public
losing confidence in the police force.

 

·         Therefore the implementation of a section 38(1) exemption to
provide the data you have requested, has been upheld.

 

If you consider the Constabulary has failed to meet its obligations under
the Act you have the right to raise the matter with the Information
Commissioner who may agree to investigate this matter on your behalf. The
Information Commissioner can be contacted at the following address:

 

Wycliffe house,

Water Lane,

Wilmslow,

Cheshire,

SK9 5AF

 

Telephone 0303 1231113.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Olivia Hillyard

Acting Force FOI Officer

 

Mail: Freedom of Information, Legal Services Directorate, Avon and
Somerset Constabulary, Force HQ, PO Box 37, Valley Road, Portishead,
BRISTOL, BS20 8QJ

Email  [1][email address]

 

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D. Moore left an annotation ()

ICO contacted.

'Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s stance on these groups, which has previously been documented in several news articles, is that the “evidence given by the groups in often poor and some do it as cover for extortion and blackmail”.'

From what I have seen of these groups, they provide overwhelming evidence to the police. Why would a blackmailer form such a group and provide useful information to the police?

D. Moore left an annotation ()

'Your complaint has been accepted as eligible for further consideration and will be allocated to a case officer as soon as possible... Currently the waiting time is approximately four to six months before being allocated to a case officer.'

D. Moore left an annotation ()

Useful information:

Home Office counting rules - sexual offences (effective from April 2021)

'Sexual grooming

General Rule: One crime for each child.

Examples

1: A 60 year old male posted photographs of his teenage son on internet chat rooms and posed as his son. Following frequent internet chats with two 13 year old girls he encouraged them to travel to a London Station to meet him for sex.
Two crimes (class 88/1-88A).

2: A sports coach arranges for his 14 year old star pupil to meet up for a winter training week in Spain with him. He is arrested at Heathrow in possession of condoms and lubricants which he admits were for a sexual use on his star pupil.

One crime (class 88/1 –88A

'Principal Crime Example: see General Rules Section F and Annex C.

If a person has sexual activity with a child following grooming, record the substantive sexual offence only. A 40 year old male posted photographs of his teenage son on internet chat rooms and posed as his son. Following frequent internet chats with two 13 year old girls he encouraged them to travel to a London Station to meet him for sex. He has sexual intercourse with one of them and is arrested meeting the other girl.

One crime (class22/12 -22B) and one crime (class 88/1 -88A).'
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk...

BBC News (13/5/21)

'The body overseeing criminal sentences in England and Wales is proposing treating paedophiles who are caught in stings the same as abusers who harm real children.'

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-57095465

Impact Assessment, The Home Office
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Sex offender management (g/h pages 6-7/16-19/24-25/31-34/49-59/75-76/80)

Information on polygraphs (49)

'Government intervention is necessary to address this gap in criminal law and ensure that those that arrange or facilitate child sex offences targeting children under the age of 13 are sentenced considering the additional vulnerability of the intended victims.'

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bi...