Saturday, 4 October 2014

Why I Don't Agree With The Paedophile Hunter.....

Two nights ago I, along with the majority of the nation, sat down with interest to watch the much anticipated Channel 4 Documentary "The Paedophile Hunter".

Incase you've been living under a rock and managed not to see the documentary or read any of the surrounding followed Stinson Hunter, one of the most high profile of the UK's self-appointed vigilante "Paedophile Hunters", as he went about his mission of engaging in inappropriate conversations with men he'd met online while posing as underage girls & boys, and luring them to meet him in the belief that they were meeting these children.

Once the men came to meet them, Stinson and his team film the encounter...asking them why they think it appropriate to engage in sexual conversations with minors and why they have come to meet them....the footage is then uploaded, along with evidence of the conversations and photos & names of the men to Facebook and Stinson's own website.

Stinson then encourages his supporters (Which currently stand at 327,000 on Facebook alone) to share the footage and images across their own social media.

Now before I go on, I want to point out that I am very much aware that I am in the minority with my opinion....after the documentary aired, my own Facebook and Twitter feeds flooded in support of Stinson. 

Upon viewing the #thepaedophilehunter hashtag on Twitter, it's clear to see that the majority of the UK echo my own friends in their support of him.

I considered refraining from voicing my own opinion on this subject, particularly on my blog as I don't like to get too serious on here or risk offending anybody, but after having nightmares all night long following on from the documentary....I simply couldn't keep my worries quiet.

It's difficult when it comes to a subject such as paedophilia to remain calm and's natural that the very word leaves all of us reeling with disgust, fear and anger. I'm no different....I feel all of those things too.

And of course the men featured in this documentary left me feeling angry, wondering why, feeling disgusted....and it's so easy when emotions run so high to have the knee-jerk reaction of "They deserve everything they get!"....but it's not that simple.

There are SO MANY other factors that need to be considered.

And I feel that most people are overlooking them.

I'm going to try to break it down as briefly as I can....

These are the reasons that I don't support Stinson Hunter or the many other vigilante groups targeting paedophiles in the UK:

*The potential impact on their innocent family & friends

Yes, the person committing these offences may very well deserve the action being taken. But what about the impact such public shaming has on the people close to them? 

These people very often have innocent families who knew nothing of their behaviour....they may have wives, children, elderly is not just the offender who has to face the fall out from their behaviour being made so public, but their family and friends too.

Think about it from your own perspective....if you found out tomorrow that your father or mother had committed an offense like this, your life would crumble....bad enough.

But what if the world found out about it at the same time as you did?

You had no time to come to terms with had no help in how to deal with it....Your life has changed overnight through no fault of your own, and now everybody you know is pointing fingers....wondering if you knew about it, your home is probably under attack, you're living in fear of what sort of revenge attacks may come....

All this, on top of learning that your parent isn't who you thought they were all this time, how are you supposed to deal with that overnight?
What if you already had other problems going on?

These innocent people are left to handle all of this on their own, and once this information is public it can't be taken back.

There is a reason that these cases are kept private until of them being that the spouses and family members of these people are at least given some time to process whats happened before having to face the public, they will have access to professional help to deal with what's happening to them....this can't be the case when their dirty laundry is suddenly aired all over the internet, possibly before they've even found out about it themselves.

*The potential impact on their neighbours

When paedophiles are named and shamed, it is inevitable that revenge attacks will soon come. In many forms. Their name and the town they live in is listed.

It's not difficult to track them down, and those who seek revenge attacks will do it and fast.

What if your next door neighbour was one of these men? 

What if those seeking revenge on him got the wrong door? 

What if you answer the door one day....a completely innocent person who just happens to have the misfortune to live next door to a paedophile....and you find yourself on the receiving end of a beating or worse?

What if somebody decides they're going to petrol bomb this paedophiles house at and your innocent children are laying in bed and your house goes up in flames with theirs....all because you were guilty of living next door to the wrong man.

Is that really ok? Is that something that it's worth risking?

*The potential impact on members of the public/ supporters of these groups

When the supporters of these groups receive information on these paedophiles, they are left to handle it as they see fit.

The problem is....the general public are not equipped to deal with this sort of information responsibly.

Too many people act too quickly, without thinking of the consequences for themselves or their own loved ones...

What happens if one of these supporters has been abused themselves as a child, they're living with the scars of that and suddenly they're informed that a man who lives on their road is one of these paedophiles....their emotions run high, they act on impulse....and Ok, maybe the paedophile deserved it.

But what about the person who commits the crime against him? In the eyes of the law, you are now the criminal.

Maybe you damaged his property, maybe you committed arson, maybe you killed YOUR life is ruined too.

The people who deal with paedophiles have gone through years of training in order to learn how to act without engaging their own is simply not fair to give such emotionally charged information to the general public and leave them to deal with it responsibly.

*The Ones Who DIDN'T Do It

When paedophile sting operations are carried out by the police, evidence is carefully gathered over a period of time. They know the terminology that needs to be used, they know what lines need to legally be crossed to ensure a prosecution.

Stinson Hunter himself admitted in a 2013 interview that the MAJORITY of the men he deals with are NOT paedophiles....he admitted that the majority of them are lonely men who are flattered that somebody has paid some attention to them, and that they often do not cross the line from speaking online to meeting in reality or behaving in a sexual manner.

But despite admitting this, Stinson Hunter does not limit his exposes to the men who show up to meet his decoys...he also puts out photographs and names of men he refers to as "No Shows"....those who didn't actually turn up to meet the child they believed they were talking to. 

There are 2 cases I have read about which particularly bothered me.

Another vigilante group started a conversation online with a man...they used the profile of an 18 year old girl to correspond with him....after a series of sexual conversations, a meeting was the man sat waiting in a coffee shop for his date to appear, he was informed by "her" via text message that she was actually only 15....he immediately stood up and left the coffee shop to avoid the meeting, but was accosted outside by the group, filmed and accused of meeting a 15 yr old for sexual purposes.

The video was uploaded online and the man was left to face months of attacks on his home, his wife attempted suicide, and he received death threats.

Police investigated the claims and found no evidence to suggest any inappropriate behaviour as right up to the moment of meeting, he believed he was speaking to an adult - but the video had gone viral, and the damage was done - he lost his job, and his wife could easily have succeeded in her suicide attempt.

In 2013, Stinson Hunter interacted with a man while posing as a young girl via dating site Badoo - during the conversation the decoy informed the man that she was just 11 years old - the man told her he didn't believe her as her profile picture showed someone older and her language & conversational skill was not in keeping with that of an 11 yr old - believing the older girl in the photograph to be pulling his leg, the man continued the conversation but refused to meet the girl when asked.

When she continued to message him, he went to the police himself to inform them that he was concerned he may have been interacting with an 11 yr old girl online but couldn't be sure as she appeared to be much older.

Stinson Hunter then posted the mans name, location and photograph online - accusing him of grooming an 11 yr old no mention of the mans constant questioning of her age and refusal to believe her, or his reporting of the situation to police.

The case was thoroughly investigated by police - during which time the man's children were removed for safety - there was no evidence found of any offences, but thanks to the viral expose on Stinson Hunter's website the man has had to relocate for his own safety.

In summary, I have no doubt that Stinson Hunter has the best of intentions....I am sure he feels that he is doing what needs to be done to protect children and I respect his commitment to that and his desire to help.

And of course all of us want children to be protected. 

It is frustrating when we feel that not enough is being done by law enforcement to find and prosecute paedophiles, it is infuriating when lenient sentences are handed down, and these things of course encourage a desire to take the law into our own hands....

But as difficult as it is, it is so important to think with our heads and not our hearts.

There are too many risks, too many what-ifs, too many innocents dragged into the mix....vigilante justice can't be the answer.

If Stinson Hunter was tracking down these men and handing the videos and evidence straight over to the police to allow them to then go down the legal inquiry and  prosecution routes then fantastic....I would be in total support of him.

But the naming and shaming through social media is simply too dangerous and risks too many innocent people....

And sadly I doubt very much that Stinson or the many like him would be willing to work in that manner, as their quite simply is no glory in it for them to quietly hand over criminals to law enforcement. It doesn't make them the public hero that social media shaming does.

The one good thing that HAS come out of this documentary is that it's got people talking about the subject and raised awareness of just how dangerous a place the internet is for if vigilante justice is not the answer, which for all the reasons above it simply cannot be, then let's think about what is.

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