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Group Claims Paedophile Hunters are Catching 1,500 Suspects Annually

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An online child protection group based in England reports that over 1,500 people are being caught each year by paedophile hunting groups in the UK. Fleetwood Enforcers, a volunteer-led group that investigates internet groomers, states that a lack of police funding has resulted in the emergence of these groups to catch child predators. Recent data shows that in the past eight months, sting operations conducted by groups like Fleetwood Enforcers have led to the arrest, charging, or court appearance of over 125 individuals accused of online grooming offenses. One notable case involved drag artist Andrew Way, who was jailed for nearly three years for sending explicit messages to someone he believed was an underage boy. These groups use adult volunteers posing as children online to identify and expose individuals targeting minors. However, not all stings lead to successful prosecutions due to various factors such as violence by the hunting groups or the suspect pleading mental health issues. The groups sometimes face delays in bringing cases to court, with some taking up to three years to charge or convict due to the extensive digital evidence involved. The Fleetwood Enforcers spokesperson believes that if the police had sufficient funding, they would be responsible for this work, but unfortunately, this is not the case. The rise of paedophile hunting groups has received both praise and criticism, with police warning that some groups engage in illegal activities such as blackmail and violence. In a landmark ruling in 2020, the Supreme Court declared that evidence gathered by these groups can be used in criminal trials without violating a defendant’s human rights. The activities of these groups have also sparked controversy, with instances of suspects committing suicide after being confronted by paedophile hunters. Cases of online grooming have surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, with images of children as young as seven being coerced into performing sexual acts increasing by over 1,000%, according to the Internet Watch Foundation. The pandemic has led to more children relying on the internet for learning and socializing, which predators have exploited to target vulnerable individuals.



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