Over 150 residents have expressed an interest in finding out more about the work of Guardians of the North – a padeophile hunters group – who’ll be holding a meeting on the Isle of Wight next week.
Set up in April 2016, the group say they’ve caught, on average, three paedophiles a week across the country. Many Islanders have expressed an interest in being trained become a decoy for the group.
It’s a sad fact that there are sick individuals who use the Internet to try to exploit young people for their own gratification.
Some get them to take photographs of themselves, then use these images to blackmail the youngsters to carry out other acts.
Decoys can help catch these people – or better still, stop them trying in the first place (as they wouldn’t know whether it was a child or someone trying to catch them).
How the decoys work
Founder, Joe Jones, will be heading to the Island from the north of England to talk about how his group operates and provide insight for parents and grandparents about how their children can remain safe online.
Guardians of the North (GOTN) operate by setting up decoy accounts on social media posing as young people aged between 11-15 years old. They say they never initiate contact directly and always explain their age to whoever is chatting to them online in the first stages of contact.
Joe said the support from those on the Isle of Wight had been “amazing” and is looking forward to meeting them on Saturday 18th (from 4pm) at Aspire in Ryde.
Gathering evidence for successful prosecutions
Unlike some paedophile hunter groups, GOTN do not live broadcast their sting operations, instead gathering all relevant information and video footage, which they pass onto the police to ensure a successful prosecution.
Only once someone has been found guilty in court do they release details, photos or video footage.
The Guardians of the North Website explains,
“The Guardians offer their service and continue their work because the Police Forces are so stretched and so underfunded that they cannot realistically pay decoys to do what the Guardians do.”
IW Police: “Inappropriate” for us to attend meeting
Isle of Wight police say it would be inappropriate for them to attend the meeting organised by who they refer to as the “so-called ‘paedophile hunter’ group”.
They encourage residents with any concerns that a child may be involved in child sexual exploitation to call them on 101.
Isle of Wight District Commander, Supt Sarah Jackson said:
“We are aware of a community meeting on the Isle of Wight being proposed by a group called Guardians of the North.
“Our position on ‘paedophile hunter’ groups is in keeping with the national guidance which was set by ACPO (now the NPCC) and the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command.
“We understand the public’s desire to protect their children from online abuse, but we do not promote action by these kinds of groups. There are risks with such groups compromising ongoing police investigations. However we will consider any evidence presented to us and reiterate our absolute commitment to identifying and prosecuting those who abuse and exploit children. Our attendance at this meeting organised to promote the work of ‘paedophile hunters’ would not by appropriate. If members of our local community have questions or concerns about this type of activity we are happy to meet with these residents separately to discuss concerns.
“The Isle of Wight remains a safe place to live and work and a great deal of work continues to protect victims and identify offenders in relation to child sexual exploitation (CSE). These include Operation Makesafe which was launched in March 2016. Our neighbourhood policing teams have been training members of staff employed as taxi drivers, hoteliers, at children’s care homes, and in pubs to encourage them to identify the signs of CSE and have provided clarity around reporting pathways.
“If you are concerned that a child may be involved in child sexual exploitation or if you believe a person may be sexually exploiting a child please call us on 101 quoting ‘CSE Help Me’, alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111”.