Kent Police warning over vigilante 'groomer stings'

Image source, PA
Image caption, One confrontation saw a brawl erupt at Bluewater

People have been warned about "taking the law into their own hands" after live broadcasts of vigilante groups targeting suspected groomers were streamed on the internet.

Kent Police said this could hinder investigations and harm the innocent.

One confrontation saw a brawl erupt at Bluewater on Sunday. The group involved, The Hunted One, has since said it will not show live stings.

A man has appeared in court following the incident.

Two other men have been charged with public order offences.

Ch Supt Thomas Richards, head of Kent's public protection unit, said: "We do have significant concerns about people taking the law into their own hands and the methods they use, and in some cases acting outside of the law, and would strongly advise against getting involved in, or setting up activities to entrap those suspected of intending to commit offences," he said.

"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."

Mr Richards said it could also put vulnerable people at risk of harm.

Targeting offenders and keeping children safe was a top police priority, he added.

In a Facebook post, The Hunted One said: "We have decided that in moving forward that we will no longer be going live for the stings as we don't want cases and evidence ruined after all our hard work in collecting the information."

The group said the safety of its team and the public was "paramount".

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