Paedophile hunters and online grooming

The request was partially successful.

Dear Police Service of Northern Ireland,

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."

Police Service of Northern Ireland

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Thank you for contacting the PSNI’s Corporate Information Branch.
 
As PSNI is facing unprecedented challenges owing to the coronavirus
(Covid-19) pandemic we will not be able to respond to your requests or
queries in a timely fashion. Please accept our apologies for this delay
and we would ask for your understanding at this time. When we are in a
position to respond to your enquiry/request we will do so. 
Thank you,
Corporate Information Branch
PSNI

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...

Coleraine man questioned by Child Protection Awareness (CPA):

https://www.bitchute.com/video/2GUm9NCNQ...

Belfast man questioned by Child Protection Awareness (CPA):

https://www.bitchute.com/video/QRhb107qs...

More videos can be found here:

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

Police Service of Northern Ireland

This e-mail has been marked OFFICIAL [PUBLIC];

4th January 2021

Dear Mr. Moore,

FREEDOM of INFORMATION ACT 2000

I write in connection with your request for information dated 2nd January
2021 which was received by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)
on 2nd January 2021.  I note you seek access to the following information:

Paedophile Hunters And Online Grooming

Given the unprecedented challenges PSNI and other first line-emergency
responders have experienced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic we may
not be able to respond to your request within the statutory timescales. We
will however endeavour to issue you with a response promptly and in any
event within 20 working days .

We are continuing to work with and support partner agencies to ensure
critical public health information is available during this time. Further
updates can be found on the Public Health Agency website at:
www.publichealth.hscni.net

If your request is unclear and clarification is required the 20 day
legislative time limit dictated by the Freedom of Information Act 2000
will be stopped until we receive clarification of your request. The ICO
guidance at paragraph 40 of the link below sets out that the clock begins
anew the day after the clarification is received. It states;

“If the requester subsequently provides enough detail to enable the
authority to identify and locate the information, then the authority must
respond to the clarified request within a new 20 working day time limit
with the ‘clock’ starting the day after it receives the required
clarification. “

The link for this is:

[1]https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

In the event where the cost of complying with the request would exceed the
“appropriate level”, which is fixed at £450, as stated in the Freedom of
Information Regulations 2004, it is the policy of the PSNI to close the
request. You will however be notified of this decision and given an
opportunity to refine and resubmit the request if possible.

If your request requires either full or partial transference to another
public authority in order to answer your query, again, you will be
notified.

If you have any queries regarding your request please write to the
Corporate Information Branch vie email or the address below. Please
remember to quote the reference number listed above in any future
communications with the Corporate Information Branch.

If you are dissatisfied in any way with the handling of your request, you
have the right to request a review. You should do this as soon as
possible, or in any case within two months of the date of issue of this
letter. In the event that you require a review to be undertaken, you can
do so by writing to the Head of Corporate Information Branch, PSNI
Headquarters, 65 Knock Road, Belfast, BT5 6LE or by emailing
[email address].

If following an internal review, carried out by an independent decision
maker, you were to remain dissatisfied in any way with the handling of the
request you may make a complaint, under Section 50 of the Freedom of
Information Act, to the Information Commissioner’s Office and ask that
they investigate whether the PSNI has complied with the terms of the
Freedom of Information Act. You can write to the Information Commissioner
at Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF. In most circumstances the Information
Commissioner will not investigate a complaint unless an internal review
procedure has been carried out, however the Commissioner has the option to
investigate the matter at his discretion.

 

Yours sincerely,

Paddy

FOI Decision Maker
Corporate Information Branch
PSNI HQ Brooklyn

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

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...

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...

Police Service of Northern Ireland

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This e-mail has been marked OFFICIAL [PUBLIC];

Subject:        FOI-2021-00009
22^nd February 2021

Dear Mr. D Moore,

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000

I refer to your request for information dated 2nd January 2021 which was
received by the Police Service of Northern Ireland on 2nd January 2021
concerning:

Paedophile Hunters And Online Grooming

 

Please find attached response to your request.

 

Yours sincerely

Paddy

FOI Decision Maker
Corporate Information Branch
PSNI HQ Brooklyn

show quoted sections

Dear Police Service of Northern Ireland,

Ref. F-2021-00009 

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

I wish to (i) reformulate my requests and (ii) request an internal review of your response to request 4.

(i) Please provide the following information instead:

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. Number of times each so-called paedophile hunting group provided information to you in 2019/20 that led to the arrest of a suspect.

(ii) Please review your response to:

'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?'

You responded:

'Request  number  4-  PSNI  would  be  fully  exempting  this  information  by  virtue  of  Section  40(2) Personal  Information,  as  to  release  this information could reveal  the  identity  of  individuals  thus breaching the first principle of data protection legislation.'

I have not asked for personal information, but for the names of the groups involved. The groups involved typically livestream their activities on Facebook so their identities are already in the public domain. I also note that your response does not state that you contacted the relevant groups to ask if they objected to their details being shared. Such groups are generally keen to publicise their activities and often proclaim 'share for awareness'. Evidence that their names are already public knowledge includes:

Child Protection Awareness - Belfast

https://www.bitchute.com/video/QRhb107qs...

Child ProtectionAwareness - Coleraine

https://www.bitchute.com/video/2GUm9NCNQ...

Child ProtectionAwareness - Coleraine

https://www.bitchute.com/video/2Pbmpq6gw...

Not One Nonce Can Escape - Coleraine

https://www.bitchute.com/video/M7jdjqwYd...

Parents Against Predators NI - Lisburn

https://www.bitchute.com/video/Q1KWAd4OM...

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

Police Service of Northern Ireland

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Thank you for contacting the PSNI’s Corporate Information Branch.
 
As PSNI is facing unprecedented challenges owing to the coronavirus
(Covid-19) pandemic we will not be able to respond to your requests or
queries in a timely fashion. Please accept our apologies for this delay
and we would ask for your understanding at this time. When we are in a
position to respond to your enquiry/request we will do so. 
Thank you,
Corporate Information Branch
PSNI

Dear Police Service of Northern Ireland,

Please ignore my email of 27/2/21. I incorrectly requested a review.

I have reformulated my requests.

For 2019/20, please provide:

1. Number of crime reports for grooming offences recorded with an online marker attached.

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

3. Number of times each so-called paedophile hunter group provided information to you that led to the arrest of a suspect in connection with sexual offences against a child.

4. Names of all so-called paedophile hunter groups who provided information to you that led to the arrest of individuals in connection with sexual offences against children.

Yours faithfully,

D. Moore

Police Service of Northern Ireland

1 Attachment

Thank you for contacting the PSNI’s Corporate Information Branch.
 
As PSNI is facing unprecedented challenges owing to the coronavirus
(Covid-19) pandemic we will not be able to respond to your requests or
queries in a timely fashion. Please accept our apologies for this delay
and we would ask for your understanding at this time. When we are in a
position to respond to your enquiry/request we will do so. 
Thank you,
Corporate Information Branch
PSNI

Police Service of Northern Ireland

This e-mail has been marked OFFICIAL [PUBLIC];

1st March 2021

Dear Mr. Moore,

FREEDOM of INFORMATION ACT 2000

I write in connection with your request for information dated 28th
February 2021 which was received by the Police Service of Northern Ireland
(PSNI) on 28th February 2021.  I note you seek access to the following
information:

Paedophile Hunters And Online Grooming

Given the unprecedented challenges PSNI and other first line-emergency
responders have experienced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic we may
not be able to respond to your request within the statutory timescales. We
will however endeavour to issue you with a response promptly and in any
event within 20 working days .

We are continuing to work with and support partner agencies to ensure
critical public health information is available during this time. Further
updates can be found on the Public Health Agency website at:
www.publichealth.hscni.net

If your request is unclear and clarification is required the 20 day
legislative time limit dictated by the Freedom of Information Act 2000
will be stopped until we receive clarification of your request. The ICO
guidance at paragraph 40 of the link below sets out that the clock begins
anew the day after the clarification is received. It states;

“If the requester subsequently provides enough detail to enable the
authority to identify and locate the information, then the authority must
respond to the clarified request within a new 20 working day time limit
with the ‘clock’ starting the day after it receives the required
clarification. “

The link for this is:

[1]https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

In the event where the cost of complying with the request would exceed the
“appropriate level”, which is fixed at £450, as stated in the Freedom of
Information Regulations 2004, it is the policy of the PSNI to close the
request. You will however be notified of this decision and given an
opportunity to refine and resubmit the request if possible.

If your request requires either full or partial transference to another
public authority in order to answer your query, again, you will be
notified.

If you have any queries regarding your request please write to the
Corporate Information Branch vie email or the address below. Please
remember to quote the reference number listed above in any future
communications with the Corporate Information Branch.

If you are dissatisfied in any way with the handling of your request, you
have the right to request a review. You should do this as soon as
possible, or in any case within two months of the date of issue of this
letter. In the event that you require a review to be undertaken, you can
do so by writing to the Head of Corporate Information Branch, PSNI
Headquarters, 65 Knock Road, Belfast, BT5 6LE or by emailing
[email address].

If following an internal review, carried out by an independent decision
maker, you were to remain dissatisfied in any way with the handling of the
request you may make a complaint, under Section 50 of the Freedom of
Information Act, to the Information Commissioner’s Office and ask that
they investigate whether the PSNI has complied with the terms of the
Freedom of Information Act. You can write to the Information Commissioner
at Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF. In most circumstances the Information
Commissioner will not investigate a complaint unless an internal review
procedure has been carried out, however the Commissioner has the option to
investigate the matter at his discretion.

 

Yours sincerely,

Gilbert

FOI Decision Maker
Corporate Information Branch
PSNI HQ Brooklyn

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

Police Service of Northern Ireland

This e-mail has been marked OFFICIAL [PUBLIC];

29th March 2021

Dear Mr. Moore,

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000

I write in connection with your request for information dated 28th
February 2021 which was received by the Police Service of Northern Ireland
(PSNI) on 28th February 2021.  I note you seek access to the following
information:

Paedophile Hunters & Online Grooming

To enable the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to meet your
request further clarification is required.

Can you please clarify the reference to ‘grooming offences’, is this
referring to all offences within the sexual grooming classification which
includes the following:

 

Meeting a child following sexual grooming and sexual communication with a
child or specifically the offence ‘meeting a child following sexual
grooming’?

 

See [1]table 2.2 (hyperlink) to PSNI website, in relation to recorded
crime by offence, for further information.

 

Can you please advise how you wish to proceed.

 

 

You should be aware that the 20 day legislative time limit dictated by the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 has been stopped. Once we receive
clarification of your request a new 20 working day time limit will
commence.

Please send clarification of your request by writing to Corporate
Information Branch, PSNI Headquarters, 65 Knock Road Belfast BT5 6LE or by
email to [email address]. Alternatively, if you wish to discuss
your request or have any additional queries you can contact the Corporate
Information Branch on 028 9070 0164.

Yours sincerely,

Gillian

FOI Decision Maker
Corporate Information Branch
PSNI HQ Brooklyn

02890 700164

DDI 02890 561641

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. https://www.psni.police.uk/globalassets/...

Dear Police Service of Northern Ireland,

I refer to your clarificatory request:

'To enable the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to meet your
request further clarification is required.

Can you please clarify the reference to ‘grooming offences’, is this referring to all offences within the sexual grooming classification which includes the following:
 
Meeting a child following sexual grooming and sexual communication with a child or specifically the offence ‘meeting a child following sexual grooming’?'

By 'grooming offences' I mean offences relating to any communication with a child for the purpose of abusing them – in person or otherwise - which occurred online.

In terms of Home Office codes I mean:

071/17
021/02
021/03
021/05
022/08
022/11
022/14
022/24

Yours faithfully,

D. Moore

Police Service of Northern Ireland

1 Attachment

Thank you for contacting the PSNI’s Corporate Information Branch.
 
As PSNI is facing unprecedented challenges owing to the coronavirus
(Covid-19) pandemic we will not be able to respond to your requests or
queries in a timely fashion. Please accept our apologies for this delay
and we would ask for your understanding at this time. When we are in a
position to respond to your enquiry/request we will do so. 
Thank you,
Corporate Information Branch
PSNI

Police Service of Northern Ireland

1 Attachment

This e-mail has been marked OFFICIAL [PUBLIC];

Subject:  FOI-2021-00516
10th May 2021

Dear Mr. Moore,

FREEDOM of INFORMATION ACT 2000

I write in connection with your request for information received by the
Police Service of Northern Ireland concerning:

Paedophile Hunters and Online Grooming

Please find attached response to your request.

Yours sincerely

Gillian

FOI Decision Maker
Corporate Information Branch
PSNI HQ Brooklyn

02890 700164

DDI 02890 561641

show quoted sections

D. Moore left an annotation ()

'Request 3

"Number of times each so-called paedophile hunter group provided information to you that led to the arrest of a suspect in connection with sexual offences against a child."

Answer Zero.'

I am surprised by the response to Request 3.

Table 7.3 of the information provided includes this:

'5. During 2017/18 the activity of Online Child Abuse Activist Groups (more commonly known as paedophile hunters) who engage by posing as a child under 16 led to an increase in classification 88A Sexual Grooming. This activity has had an impact on the number of attempted offences recorded within this classification, the majority of these offences were recorded against the state.'

In the row '*88A Sexual grooming' the figure for 2016/17 is 32. The figures for subsequent years are as follows:

2017/18 - 80
2018/19 - 120
2019/20 - 161

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...

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...