OPINION: 'Paedophile hunters' should not broadcast stings on Facebook Live

Many 'paedophile hunters' controversially broadcast stings on Facebook Live.
Many 'paedophile hunters' controversially broadcast stings on Facebook Live.

Should 'paedophile hunters' confront suspected criminals on Facebook Live?

No, of course not.

If 'paedophile hunters' gather evidence to suggest an individual has broken the law, they should inform the police - the professionals - immediately.

That's all they need to do. Job well done.

They shouldn't arrange to meet that person so they can broadcast it live on Facebook for your viewing pleasure.

How would you feel if you learned a police investigation was jeopardised or a suspected paedophile went underground because of a sting posted on Facebook Live? This would be horrendous for a victim, who deserves justice to be served in a court of law.

How would you feel if one of your relatives or friends was falsely accused of being a paedophile on Facebook? We are aware this happened to a young man in Derbyshire recently - we may be able to bring you more on this shocking story soon.

Some people may argue that suspected paedophiles should be 'named and shamed' on the social networking website.

However, experts - including a number of senior police officers and the NSPCC - say otherwise.

Earlier this year, The Hunted One group stopped posting stings on Facebook Live after a stark warning from Chief Superintendent Thomas Richards, of Kent Police.

He said: "We would strongly advise against getting involved in or setting up activities to entrap those suspected of intending to commit offences.

"Although seemingly well-meaning, this can significantly hinder our work, compromise ongoing investigations and negate months of investigative work.

"There is also the risk that it can potentially identify people who are completely innocent and mistakenly associate them with grooming offences."

An NSPCC spokesman added: "While we have every sympathy for people concerned about suspected abusers, there are risks when members of the public take the law into their own hands.

"It can run the risk of driving offenders underground, jeopardise ongoing and complex police work or result in innocent people being harassed - all of which may put more children at risk of harm."

Of course, it is completely right that convicted criminals are 'named and shamed' - and that is where we, the media, come in.

If a man is charged with child sex offences, for example, the police have a duty to inform the media.

Trusted, professional journalists will subsequently cover that man's court case in accordance with strict laws which also apply to Facebook users - although many Facebook users don't seem to be aware of this.

Under the rule of British law, an individual is innocent until proven guilty.

If that man is convicted by a court of law, the media will, of course, report this.

He will be thoroughly named and shamed - in the proper way.

Broadcasting stings of people who may be completely innocent on Facebook Live which could hinder police work and not lead to justice being served in a court of law is not the proper way.

- If you want to report a crime or incident to Derbyshire Constabulary, call 101. In an emergency, always call 999.