“You either hunt, or be hunted”. That was a sentence that fictional character Frank Underwood stated in House of Cards. The implication being that one needs to hunt, or face being hunted by a different predator.
In this article, we look into the growing number of so-called “paedophile hunters” – who really are just a group of glorified vigilantes. These “hunters” seem to be multiplying in numbers, with more and more “sting” videos appearing on YouTube week-by-week.
With Underwood’s quote in mind, you wonder how many of these hunters are hunting others in order to avoid being brought to justice themselves. The evidence we have is worrying in this respect.
We feel that from the very outset, we should state that we are not, and do not, condone any form of paedophillia. This is one of the most sick and depraved parts of humanity, and causes so much misery for so many people.
What do “Paedophile Hunters” Do?
It is a rather simple concept. A group of adults – usually big burly bald men, spend weeks posing as underage children on chat rooms, attempting to lure in supposed paedophiles who are allegedly trying to groom these “children”.
These imaginary relationships gradually build to the extent that a “meeting” is organised between the supposed paedophile and the “child”. Typically, the alleged paedophile has at this point sent lewd and wholly inappropriate pictures to what they believe to be is a child.
Clearly, they are doing something heinous and at the very least – against the law. As such, they are a danger to society and should be reported to the Police immediately. This should be the end of the case, as justice will be served.
But as many know, this is far from the end. The group who have “snared” the alleged paedophile gleefully go to the pre-arranged meeting point and surprise them with the revelation that they have been talking to middle-aged men, and that they have been acting unlawfully.
But things quickly become uncomfortable from here. This is because these hunters film their meeting, and shove a camera in the face of the accused while interviewing them about their actions. They perform a citizen’s arrest on the individual and call the Police.
In the mean time, the group act in a “holier than thou” attitude, and begin to taunt the individual they have caught. In short, they publicly shame the person. Do they deserve this? Maybe. As we mentioned, paedophillia is heinous, and simply evil.
One sickening video, which caused widespread ridicule, involves a group confronting a man who clearly suffers from a severe form of Autism. His speech, mannerisms and general appearance have all resulted in him being widely mocked and bullied online.
Again, what this individual did was wrong. But anyone watching the video could clearly see that this man did not understand the implications of what he had done, nor could he even comprehend the fact that he hadn’t been talking to the “girl”.
The hunters gain absolutely nothing from uploading the video. Any human with an ounce of decency about them would feel uncomfortable seeing an Autistic man with little understanding of what is happening or going on, being aggressively questioned by a group of middle-aged men.
Then there are those who watch the videos. They appear to get some sick pleasure from seeing someone at their lowest. Many argue that the person who is accused of the crime deserves their punishment, but would they feel the same way if it was their family member?
The Effects on the Family
But who is really affected by these videos? It is the family of the accused. The fact that these videos are posted online is clearly not a deterrent. The hunters also typically say that they film the encounter for the safety of all parties – something that is hogwash.
All that happens is that the family of the accused gets shame brought on to them. Enough embarrassment has been caused for the family of the accused, and enough damage has been caused to all of those that have cruelly been exposed to abuse during their life. This should be the end, instead of a big spectacle being made of the event.
The family of the accused also gets put into a situation where they become endangered. The children of the so-called predators are often bullied, houses are vandalised, family members threatened – all just because of their association with a supposed criminal. This could all be avoided without the videos.
The Damage Done
Once again, we feel it is important to state that we do not condone paedophilia in any form. But in producing these videos, an awful lot of damage is done.
As mentioned, it is the family of the accused that are affected the most. Imagine seeing a family member being ridiculed by hundreds of thousands of people online.
Then there are the suicides that are linked to these events. While some might say that these people are no great loss to society – something that is arguable – any suicide is a tragedy. Again, it is the family members that are affected the most, as they lose a loved one.
Between 2014 and 2019, there were at least eight suicides linked to these videos. Michael Duff, Robert Pearson, Nigel Sherratt, Ricky Slade, David Baker, Michael Parkes, Gary Cleary and one unnamed man from Northern Ireland, all took their lives after being confronted by hunters.
The case of Nigel Sherratt was particularly controversial. Sherratt died as an innocent man – as he hadn’t been charged by the Police. Yet his video was plastered on the internet. Sherratt took his own life within two days of the release of the video.
Sherratt suffered from intellectual difficulties, with his family describing him as a “10-year old trapped in a 47-year old’s body”. Sherratt was also described as being desperately lonely.
The chat logs relating to Sherratt were particularly damning, with screenshots showing that Sherratt stopped contact with the decoy, before the decoy later re-started the conversation.
In a separate case, one hunter managed to get his finger bitten off by a predator. Instead of spending the money on making it to the meeting, this hunter clearly should have donated the money to the NSPCC.
But these hunters like to make a big deal out of these actions, and a quiet charitable donation is not big enough for them. Instead they create these videos – attempting to become local celebrities at the same time – thinking that they are judge, jury and executioner.
Is it entrapment?
These big, mainly bald, burly men, go and speak to the person who they are accusing of being a sexual predator. They go armed with printed screenshots of chat logs between the two parties. Conveniently, only the damning messages are shown on camera.
It has been proven that in some cases, the hunters were the ones who were starting conversations with strangers in a bid to lure them into their trap. They have also been shown to try and arrange meetings. This is in direct contravention to their claims that the adult is always the one who instigates such discussion.
Trying to “lure” people in is very different to lying in wait for someone. Intentionally asking leading questions is also a concern. Simply put, a lot of the time, this is entrapment.
Then you also need to question the motivations of these hunters. They supposedly state that they are doing it for the good of society; but watching some of the videos online suggest that some do this as a way of belittling others – all in the name of Facebook likes.
It is also important to state that many of those they lure in are chronically depressed and lonely individuals with a significantly below average IQ. Again, we aren’t condoning their behaviour, but loneliness is a horrible thing to have to deal with, and anyone giving someone attention when they are at a particularly low point can be of huge help.
The Hunters are sometimes convicted predators
One of the groups that has uploaded dozens of these videos – which we are not naming – was found to have a convicted paedophile as one of their leading members.
Michael Terry, was branded a “dangerous sexual predator” by a judge in 2014, after being convicted of indecent exposure and inciting a girl under the age of 16 to engage in a sexual act.
Yet he was able to be a part of this group, hunting others down. This surely isn’t the only example – and it goes back to the beginning where we mentioned that sometimes it is a case of hunt, or be hunted.
This altogether paints a grim picture of the hunters. While Terry was finally sentenced in 2016 after further criminal activities, many of the hunters remain out there, hiding in plain sight.
There is no doubting that these groups do actually contribute positively to society. After all, they have helped bring some very depraved and evil individuals to justice. They have saved many potential victims.
With Police forces around the United Kingdom having tightened budgets, there isn’t enough time for the Police to take part in elaborate sting operations. So in this sense, the hunters do some of the Police’s work.
But it should stop at this point, publicly humiliating the person achieves nothing, and only ends up putting the family of the person at risk of reprisal attacks and other hate.
Paedophillia already ruins so many lives. The last thing that these heinous activities need is more lives to be ruined. The videos must stop. Modern-day lynch mobs is not we need right now.
Regardless, we cannot escape the realities of the crimes that these people are attempting. In that respect, these groups do help. But these videos add nothing but shame to the innocent family of the accused.
At no point in this article have we condoned the actions of sexual predators. What they do is simply depraved, and ruins lives. But there is no need for their selfish and disgusting actions to cause further problems for their innocent family members.