Paedophile hunters and online grooming

D. Moore made this Freedom of Information request to South Yorkshire Police

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Dear South Yorkshire Police,

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 ()

Joe Purshouse (School of Law, University of East Anglia) has written a paper that seriously questions the activities of so-called paedophile hunters. It is titled: "'Paedophile Hunters’, Criminal Procedure, and Fundamental Human Rights".

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

"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 handed down judgment in the case of someone caught by '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...

Rotherham man questioned on 1 Jan. 2021 (Fleetwood Enforcers):

https://www.bitchute.com/video/9LU3xOjS9...

Allegedly speaking to multiple decoys. He asked: "Will I be classified as a paedophile?". Admitted to working with children and to receiving indecent images of children. An investigator said he would lose his job and a passer-by expressed in colourful language his disapproval of the suspect. The arresting police officers were thanked.

Barnsley man questioned (Net Justice):

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

One Reason spoke to this man:

https://www.bitchute.com/video/jBcyE2hlI...

More videos can be found here:

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

FOI, South Yorkshire Police

1 Attachment

Dear D Moore

 

Re your request (reference number above):

 

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.

 

Please could you clarify the following point(s): -

 

South Yorkshire Police has received a number of similar requests to yours
in the past. All such requests and responses are published on the Force
Disclosure Log, which can be found on the South Yorkshire Police website
at: -

 

[1]https://www.southyorkshire.police.uk/fin...

 

You may find that research of the Log may be worthwhile prior to
submitting future requests as this may well result in the information
being available immediately rather than any delay resulting from the
process of responding to a request under the Act. In particular, we would
draw your attention to the following entries: -

 

[2]https://www.southyorkshire.police.uk/fin...

 

[3]https://www.southyorkshire.police.uk/fin...

 

[4]https://www.southyorkshire.police.uk/fin...

 

[5]https://www.southyorkshire.police.uk/fin...

 

[6]https://www.southyorkshire.police.uk/fin...

 

[7]https://www.southyorkshire.police.uk/fin...

 

 

It would be helpful if you could review the above entries and compare the
responses to your particular requirement for information and clarify what
you still require. We appreciate that people have different reasons for
requesting information and those differences often lead to slight but
important variations in the wording of requests. We are concerned to avoid
misinterpreting these subtle variations and issuing an unnecessary or
erroneous refusal to release information under Section 21 of the Freedom
of Information Act (Information available to the applicant by other
means). We also understand that information changes with the passage of
time and previous responses may not always cover the date or time
parameters of your request.

If our previous responses do not completely satisfy your requirements it
would be appreciated if you could refine your request in order to elicit
that information not already published on our website. So, for instance,
where your requirement involves information from particular date
parameters, and we have only released information for part of that time
frame, it would be helpful if you could refine your request so as to
prompt the release of information relating to the dates not already
published.

As a general point concerning the setting of date parameters: The use of
terms such as “for the last year” or “over the last five years” is often
not precise enough to ensure the accurate location, retrieval and
extraction of information (unfortunately our computers simply do not have
the linguistic ability to interpret these phrases!). The use of terms such
as ‘financial year’ or ‘calendar year’ is more helpful, but the use of
exact dates between, or from which information is required is most likely
to achieve accurate results. 

 

 

Please forward your clarification to South Yorkshire Police as this
request will be ‘stopped’ on our database until this has been received.

 

Once we have received clarification, your request be considered and you
will receive a response within the statutory timescale of 20 working days
as defined by the Act, subject to the information not being exempt or
containing a reference to a third party. In some circumstances South
Yorkshire Police may be unable to achieve this deadline. If this is likely
you will be informed and given a revised time-scale at the earliest
opportunity.

 

There may be a fee payable for the retrieval, collation and provision of
the information you request. If this is the case you will be informed and
the 20 working day timescale will be suspended until we receive payment
from you. If you choose not to make a payment then your request will
remain unanswered.

 

Some requests may also require either full or partial transference to
another public authority in order to answer your query in the fullest
possible way. Again, you will be informed if this is the case.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Louise Holmes

Information Compliance Clerk

 

South Yorkshire Police

Information Compliance Unit

Performance and Governance

Unit 20

Churchill Way

Sheffield

S35 2PY

 

Website address – [8]southyorks.police.uk

 

[9]http://nextgen.app.yhrn.police/sites/SYP...

 

Email - [10][email address]

 

 

 

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References

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7. https://www.southyorkshire.police.uk/fin...
8. http://www.southyorkshire.police.uk/
10. mailto:[email address]

D. Moore left an annotation ()

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

Link 2 - Ref 20202017

https://www.southyorkshire.police.uk/fin...

"1. The number of cases or allegations against individuals received by your force from so-called ‘paedophile hunter’ or ‘paedophile vigilante’ groups from 2010 up until the present day (15/10/20) – broken down by year"

Response:

"However, our Crime Management Systems record crimes the Home Office specify as ‘crimes’. They are able to do a free text search within a couple of fields for example for ‘paedophile hunter’ or ‘paedophile vigilante’ This of course is reliant on the words being inputted and spelt correctly in the first instance. This may provide you with some useable data for your research "

Data

"COUNT OF OFFENCES ON CMS(II) CRIME REGISTER

WHERE TEXT REPORT CONTAINS 'PAEDOPHILE HUNTER' OR 'PAEDOPHILE VIGILANTE'"

(similar infomation for the years 2018,2019 and 2020 would be worth having for all police forces)

Link 3 - Ref 20200005

https://www.southyorkshire.police.uk/fin...

"1) How many crimes were recorded by the force relating to child grooming charges including the offence of “attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming”

Response:

"I have included the count of offences recorded on CONNECT between 01/01/2018 and 31/12/2019, recorded with the Home Office classifications 88/1 (Meeting a female child following sexual grooming etc. (Offender is aged 18 or over and victim is under 16) and 88/2 (Meeting a male child following sexual grooming etc. (Offender is 18 or over and victim is under 16). Of these offences, I have included a breakdown of outcomes for 88/1 and 88/2, also including the volume of outcome 01 Charged/Summonsed."

Data

"COUNT OF THE OFFENCES (Meeting a female child following sexual grooming etc."

e.g.

"FULL OFFENCE TITLE

"Attempted - Meeting a female child following sexual grooming etc (Offender is aged 18 or over and victim is under 16)"

2018 - 9
2019 - 13

but:

"01 - OFFENCE OUTCOME

Charged/Summonsed"

2018 - 12
2019 - 4

(similar information for 2020 would be worth having for all police forces)

Link 4 - Ref 20191099

https://www.southyorkshire.police.uk/fin...

"Q3) How many of those cases in Q2 used evidence supplied by so called paedophile hunters? "

Response:

"I have also provided record level data which includes the Initial MO field that you may wish to review in order to answer question 3. Due to spelling variations I have not been able to filter out “so called paedophile hunters”."

Link 5 - Ref 20191211

https://www.southyorkshire.police.uk/fin...

"Q1) How many members of so-called paedophile hunting groups were arrested by your force in the listed years below for activities relating to “paedophile hunting”? "

Response:

"There isn’t an accurate way to extract data from crime systems to identify if an offender is a ‘member of a so-called paedophile hunting group’."

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

Dear FOI,

Thank you for yor response and for the valuable links you also provided. I learned a lot from the material you directed me to.

I wish to reframe my request:

1. Number of crime reports for grooming offences recorded with an online
marker attached, for 2019/2020.

2. Of which, the number resulting in a charge.

3. Of those resulting in a charge, the number involving a child decoy.

4. Of those resulting in a charge, the number involving a police decoy.

5. Of those resulting in a charge, the number involving a paedophile
hunter group.

6. The paedophile hunter groups involved.

Yours sincerely,

D. Moore

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...

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...

FOI, South Yorkshire Police

3 Attachments

 

Dear D Moore

 

Please find attached our response to your Freedom of Information request.

 

Regards

 

Information Compliance Clerk

 

South Yorkshire Police

Information Compliance Unit

Performance and Governance

Unit 20

Churchill Way

Sheffield

S35 2PY

Tel: 0114 2921871 (711871)

 

Website address – [1]southyorks.police.uk

 

[2]http://nextgen.app.yhrn.police/sites/SYP...

 

Email - [3][email address]

 

 

SYP Alerts offers information about local policing issues by text, email
or voice message. Sign-up now at www.sypalerts.co.uk #SignMeUp

References

Visible links
1. http://www.southyorkshire.police.uk/
3. mailto:[email address]

Dear FOI,

Reference No: 20210014 

Thank you for the useful information. I have one query, however.

Please specify all of the FOIA exemptions you are engaging with respect to my sixth request:

'6. The paedophile hunter groups involved.' 

Yours sincerely,

D. Moore

FOI, South Yorkshire Police

1 Attachment

Afternoon
 
Copied from our Response:-
 
Section 40 (2) – Personal Information
This is an absolute exemption and therefore a Public Interest Test is not
relevant. However, for clarity, I will explain my rationale for engaging
this exemption.
Section 40(2) provides that information is exempt if it is the personal
data of someone other than the applicant and disclosure would breach any
of the data protection principles. The term ‘personal data’ means data
that relates to a living individual who can be identified. This may take
an obvious form of ‘personal information’ such as a name but can also
include information which, if aggregated, can pinpoint an individual. In
this instance disclosure of a group risks identification of the
individuals involved including those who may have been wrongly targeted by
a group. This type of disclosure may potentially identify individuals
involved and would breach data protection principles.
 
Louise
 
 
Louise Holmes
Information Compliance Clerk
 
South Yorkshire Police
Information Compliance Unit
Performance and Governance
Unit 20
Churchill Way
Sheffield
S35 2PY
 
Website address – [1]southyorks.police.uk
 
 
Email - [2][email address]
 
 

show quoted sections

J Roberts left an annotation ()

You may be interested in this request relating to sexting and the Outcome 21:

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

Information on the Outcome 21:

https://www.slaterheelis.co.uk/crime/pri...

J Roberts left an annotation ()

You may be interested in this:

'National Police Chiefs’ Council Responding to Online Child Abuse Activists

2.2 Analysis of incidents of activism has revealed a mixed picture. Some activist groups have amended their mode of operation such that they pass packages of information to the police without having real world contact with the person suspected of offending behaviour. Whilst this is a positive development many groups continue to insist on carrying out a physical intervention and only notify the police post or concurrent to the event. This is less desirable for reasons that have been previously articulated. There is an increased prevalence of direct criminality where purported activists have no intention to notify the police but use the opportunity of an encounter to extort or rob.

2.3 The complex, nuanced and often overlapping nature of activism and volunteering make it difficult to be prescriptive as to the approach to be taken. It is not legally practicable for policing to develop memoranda of understanding or protocol of operation with activists without risking claims of abuse of process. Where the state is seen to circumvent statutory regulation by sub-contracting work to public volunteers it is highly likely that criminal prosecution will be stayed.'

https://www.npcc.police.uk/2019%20FOI/NP...