Is vigilantism the only way?
By Diane Cooke
In 2014, Vice posed the question: "When and why did our society shift so dramatically from one that ignores child abuse, to one that quite deliberately, and so dynamically, addresses it?"
With a few expletives peppered throughout, the article highlighted the fact that Britain has a long and dark history of ignoring the most horrific abuse.
"While browsing, say, a new long-scroll dossier on the unchallenged assault work of Jimmy Savile, or reading in the FT that senior Tory whip Tim Fortescue once boasted he'd cover up for any "chap" embroiled in a "scandal involving small boys", so long as it was worth it in "brownie points" – it suddenly seemed our long-term approach to the matter had been to pose a binary question. Were you a credibly accused paedophile with (a) no money, no connections, no light-entertainment showreel to speak of? Or were you a credibly accused paedophile who had (b) popularised a catchphrase, once shot shit with the Beatles, sat in parliament? To the (a)s might come policemen, red-top reporters, any local vigilantes with the time and petrol. Meanwhile the (b)s sat tight, thinking, with fair reason, "Someone'll fix it".
In October 2014 a C4 documentary introduced Britain to Stinson Hunter. The documentary followed the online vigilante and his associates, who posed as children on social networking sites to draw out men who they asserted have paedophilic predilections.
Stinson Hunter (pictured), who started operating as a hunter in 2012, is responsible for over 50 convictions of men caught grooming young girls. He acts, or rather used to act, as the child, inviting these men to a decoy 'child's' home. Then they would be filmed, asked why they were there, and footage of them would be uploaded to Stinson's Facebook group. Their details were passed to the police.
In a well-publicised case, Michael Parkes hanged himself while out on bail after being entrapped by Stinson Hunter.
Multiple copy-cat vigilantes have sought to emulate Hunter's work, but for less honourable reasons.
An article in The Guardian highlighted cases where people's lives had been threatened after being involved in a sting by other paedophile hunters, only for the police to decide there was no case to answer.
In May 2016, a vigilante paedophile hunter was jailed for life for stabbing an innocent man to death. In a seemingly typical ploy, 42-year-old Darren Kelly was lured to a property in Pitsea, Essex, by a 15-year-old girl. But two things went wrong.
Firstly, as a spokesperson for Essex Police made clear: "Mr Kelly thought he had been speaking to a woman [the 15-year-old girl's mother]. There was no evidence he was interested in underage girls."
Secondly, rather than a dressing-down on camera, Kelly received a beating at the hands of Chris Carroll and three teenagers, who could not be named for legal reasons. Carroll, 20, then stabbed him with a hunting knife and fled the scene, but forensic detectives pinned him to the crime. Carroll will serve 21 years for murder, but his co-defendants were released without charge.
According to Vice, anti-paedophile activism has been associated with illegality and violence in the past, and been practised by some of society's more unsavoury characters. In the 1970s, for instance, the National Front picketed meetings of the Paedophile Information Exchange, and it was the NF, the British National Party and the English Defence League that led protests in 2014 against the sexual abuse of 1,400 children in Rotherham – the fact the perpetrators were British-Pakistani Muslim men no doubt being a contributing factor.
Today, fewer than 10 percent of child sex offences in the UK result in a conviction.