Northern Ireland news

Paedophile vigilante group are `self-serving, bullies and thugs' says man mistaken for predator

People viewing a video showing controversial group Predator Catchers NI trapping a target searched for the name of their target on social media site Facebook

A YOUNG man who has been mistaken for sexual predator targeted by a vigilante group has denounced them as "self-serving, attention seeking bullies and thugs".

The Belfast man, who is in his twenties, said he had been subjected to abuse after some people viewing a video showing controversial group Predator Catchers NI trapping a target had searched for the individual's name on social media site Facebook and happened upon his profile.

He then took to Facebook himself to express his opposition to the so-called paedophile hunters.

"Such groups, purportedly anxious to safeguard society's morals and protect children, present themselves as protectors of the community or alternative law enforcers," he said.

"What initially starts as online cyber vigilantism by those voicing outrage quickly mutates from calls of outrage into calls for justice outside the law.

"The activities of these vigilante groups has inspired citizen-led violence and vigilante action in the form of public harassment and physical attacks on the individuals they publicly shame and their properties; with several incidents of mistaken identity where the community has attacked the wrong person.

"The `informal policing' by these vigilante groups makes the work of inter-agency professionals much more difficult."

The man went on to accuse those involved with the group of craving celebrity, rather than being committed to protecting children as they claim.

"I do not personally believe these groups are motivated by a desire to protect and safeguard children or that such motivation is their first or primary concern but rather clickbait - the widespread dissemination of content through online engagement (likes, shares and comments) and to establish for themselves an online celebrity status," he said.

"These groups, in their quest to publicly shame individuals, are self-serving attention seeking bullies and thugs more concerned with tabloid and online social media titillation than they are with the protection and safeguarding of children."

The Queen's University, Belfast law graduate pointed out "evidence obtained and its admissibility is often, at best, questionable; lacks substantive probative value and is unable to discharge or satisfy the high legal threshold required for the standard of proof".

He called for legislation to halt their activities.

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