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Paedophile hunters and online grooming

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Dear Police Scotland,

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".


"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 Scotland

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J Roberts left an annotation ()

'Paedophile hunters' are apparently generating half of all online grooming cases in Scotland:


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 in Scotland by a team 'paedophile hunters' :

[2020] UKSC 32


See comment dated 15 July 2020:


Some comments also contain links to videos of investigators questioning suspects.

Story from The Independent:

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


D. Moore left an annotation ()

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


"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)


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."


See the group in action:


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


J Roberts left an annotation ()

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


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


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:


"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:


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...'


'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).'


FOI, Dundee, Police Scotland

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Good morning,

Please find attached our response to your recent request for information.

Kind Regards,

FOI Team

show quoted sections

Dear FOI, Dundee,

Thank you for your helpful response and for the useful links.

I found the following in a page headed 'Advice for perpetrators':

'Between 1 Aug 2017 and 31 July 2018 (12 month period) 1,059 men were charged with online offences against children and young people, which included 94 instances of grooming.'


I wish to modify my request based on the above information in the hope of bringing it under the cost threshold.

1. For the year 2019/20, please provide the number of arrests made in connection with all instances of online grooming offences by adults against children.

2. For the year 2019/20, please provide the number and names of all so-called paedophile hunting groups associated with the online grooming offences identified in 1.

Yours sincerely,

D. Moore

D. Moore left an annotation ()

'A new taskforce set up to tackle online child sexual abuse has already made 39 arrests in its first four-weeks of operation from 1st September.
Of the 39, 37 resulted in the recovery of material relating to online child sexual abuse and exploitation. 

All of those arrested were men ranging in age from 15 to 76 years old.
Internet grooming and online child sexual abuse (CSA) remains a priority for Police Scotland.

Assistant Chief Constable Judi Heaton, Lead for Major Crime, Public Protection and Local Crime, said:

From next week Police Scotland will run the next phase of its online child sexual abuse campaign #GetHelpOrGetCaught, which signposts offenders or potential offenders to Stop It Now! Scotland for help to stop or prevent offending.

A total of 1,036 online child sexual abuse crimes were recorded between April and September, according to Police Scotland’s 2010-21 Quarter 2 Performance Report, an increase of 18.4% on the previous year and 35.8% above the five year mean.'


J Roberts left an annotation ()

Links to some recent 'stings' by Scottish paedophile hunters can be found here:


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