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Paedophile Hunters and the Law

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Despite a general rise in awareness of paedophile hunters and the way they operate, there remains some confusion surrounding the law and what could happen if someone is subject to an accusation from a paedophile hunter.

We discuss the law surrounding paedophile hunters in the following article, including what could happen if you are ‘caught’, and how the police use any evidence collected by such a group.

While we hope this information is useful, please note that it should not be taken as legal advice. If you are the target of paedophile hunters and are concerned about what might happen next, then please get in touch and our team can advise you.

Who are paedophile hunters?

A paedophile hunter is an individual who poses as a child in an attempt to lure ‘predators’ online and through social media.

Paedophile hunters are often part of larger vigilante groups in the UK who work together in an attempt to ensnare alleged paedophiles.

What do they do?

In many cases, a paedophile hunter poses as a child and spends time speaking to someone before they arrange to meet with them in person. The paedophile hunter then meets with that person, often filming the exchange before posting the footage online and publicising details of the person and the allegations against them.

Paedophile hunters also report the exchange and any evidence to the police in an attempt to prompt the launching of an investigation.

The police do not directly work with individuals or groups of civilians who are hunting paedophiles. That said, the information gathered is often used in criminal trials.

While this strategy can, in theory, uncover individuals who are using the internet to groom children, there is a potential that it can cause significant harm to innocent victims. There have been examples in the past of paedophile hunters targeting individuals, whether or not they have been found guilty of a crime.

Why are they targeting paedophiles?

The emergence of paedophile hunters stems from the general belief that the police are too overwhelmed and unable to effectively intercept potential paedophiles online so they can be brought to justice.

Many paedophile hunter groups in the UK claim that they are motivated by a goal of protecting children from abuse, simply because the police are not doing enough to protect them.

What does the law say about paedophile hunters?

‘Is vigilantism illegal in the UK?’ is a valid question, especially when it comes to the act of hunting paedophiles and the way these types of groups tend to operate.

It is true that evidence from paedophile hunters is increasingly being used in criminal trials. For example, in 2018 alone, prosecutors used evidence provided by paedophile hunters in more than 250 cases against suspected abusers.

There can be some confusion over whether the acts of paedophile hunters and the evidence they obtain would amount to ‘entrapment’ and therefore be inadmissible. In England and Wales, the law on entrapment focuses on protecting individuals from entrapment by state agencies, for example, the police.

Entrapment would therefore not be a defence where paedophile hunters are involved as the groups act as private citizens and the laws on regulating surveillance powers do not apply to them.

What happens if you are caught by paedophile hunters?

Depending on what evidence is submitted against you by paedophile hunters, this may lead to you being interviewed under caution and/or arrested by the police. If this happens, it is essential that you instruct a specialist solicitor who will be able to provide robust representation.

The offence of sexual communication with a child carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail. The offence stipulates that it is illegal for an adult to intentionally communicate with someone who is under the age of 16 (and whom they must not reasonably believe to be over 16) with sexual intent. However, if the person is not a real child, but rather a paedophile hunter, this will still constitute a criminal offence, namely attempted sexual communication with a child.

Where the communication involves arrangements to meet in person, this could amount to the offence of meeting a child following sexual grooming. This is a much more serious offence, and is thus punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

If you are publicly exposed by paedophile hunters, it is important to notify the police. You may be at risk of immediate vigilante violence, and you may require the police’s protection. If the police note that you are in danger, they are obliged to assist you.

Are you being accused of an offence by paedophile hunters?

We understand how distressing it can be to be the target of paedophile hunters, particularly if it results in you being interviewed under caution or arrested by the police. The consequences of being convicted for an offence such as sexual communication with a child are extremely serious, so it is vital that you have the strongest form of legal defence on your side.

Our specialist criminal defence solicitors have over 45 years of experience in handling even the most complex cases, including those arising from the actions of paedophile hunters. No matter what your situation may involve, our team will provide advice that is tailored to you and allows you to achieve the best possible outcome for your case, whether this means having charges dropped or having a sentence lowered if conviction is unavoidable.

We are highly knowledgeable and skilled at handling the various forms of evidence that are used in these types of cases, including digital evidence and witness testimony. We understand what it takes to build a compelling case and where flaws in the prosecution can be identified.

We have been accredited by the Law Society for Criminal Litigation. This, coupled with our extensive experience, means that we can demonstrate a strong track record of previous success, which has also allowed us to establish strong relationships with many of the country’s leading criminal defence barristers.

If you are facing a charge after being targeted by paedophile hunters, we are here to provide you with the support you need.

Related matters:

We also provide support and guidance on various related matters, including:

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We are always clear and transparent when it comes to the fees you will be expected to pay for our criminal defence.

If you need to attend court after being charged, Legal Aid may become available. Whether this is possible will depend on whether the grant of public funding is justified.

Where you do not qualify for Legal Aid, the alternative will be to fund the case on a private basis.          

To find out more about the way we handle fees (both Legal Aid and private fees), please use the links provided below:

Contact our criminal defence lawyers today

If you are due to attend the police station, require any urgent specialist advice, or immediate representation in relation to the actions of paedophile hunters, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

You can contact our dedicated criminal defence lawyers in London, Birmingham, and Manchester by telephone on:

Or email: solicitors@jdspicer.co.uk

Alternatively, you can fill out our quick online enquiry form, and we will get back to you quickly.

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We are available to represent clients all over England and Wales at any time, so please contact our Emergency Number at 07836 577 556.

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Common questions

We always work with the most experienced and best leading UK barristers, KCs (Kings Counsel). We cover all criminal cases 24/7 at the police station and court. Offices in London, Birmingham, and Manchester cover cases across England and Wales. We can offer Legal Aid and affordable Private fee agreements. We can see you the same day, including virtually. Our Senior Partners supervise all of our cases.

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We respond quickly even during out of hours. We do not get our work by paying for online adverts but based on the fact that few criminal law firms can match our 45 years of experience. Most of our cases are still from word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied clients. We are called daily by dissatisfied clients from firms with less experience than us. We respond very quickly to new enquiries. We know what clients seek and so we update clients rapidly.

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Yes, read about the recent cases we've helped our clients with here.

We always keep you updated and give straightforward advice. We will get cases dropped early where the case is weak or should not be prosecuted. We will be upfront with you about where you can benefit from a good result with an early guilty plea, such as a discount on your sentence. As we work on cases across all levels with clients from all walks of life, we are excellent at giving clear, spot-on advice. As an established firm, we can allocate a whole team to your case often at short notice to secure evidence to minimise the damage to you. 

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"JD Spicer Zeb demonstrated a clear commitment to client service through their work with vulnerable and diverse individuals in what can be severely traumatic circumstances".

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