Thought provoking approach to catching paedophiles online

I saw an interesting documentary last night (Tonight with Trevor Mcdonald 8pm Monday 27th November 2006) that looked at the problem of paedophiles using the Internet to groom children and then arranging offline meetings with them with the intention of engaging in sexual activity.

The programme intoduced an organisation in America who had come up with a way of catching online paedophiles and naming and shaming them…..on TV!!!!!

The organisation linked to the Perverted Justice website, had a number of volunteers who would pose as children and engage in online conversations to see if any paedophiles would make contact. Most often a paedophile made contact quite quickly, believing that they were conversing with a child aged between 10 and 15. They were not encouraged to use profane language or to suggest sexual activity but most did.  The paedophile would suggest to the online ‘child’ that they should meet up and it was then that the ‘child’ would then invite them to their ‘house’.

This was called a sting. The paedophile would arrive at what they thought was the child’s home with the intention of engaging in sexual activity with the child, many brought gifts of alcohol and other items. It was at this point that they would be confronted by a reporter and a TV crew and confronted about their actvity. Most thought that the reporter was a Police Officer and would start to apologise and say they knew what they had done was wrong. However, when they found out their face was going to be shown on National Television, they ran from the house. At first there was no police involvement and so every paedophile that was confronted was let go and was free to roam the online chatrooms once again. One man did in fact go back online and was caught in another sting 2 days after he was caught by the reporter the first time.

However, the police decided that it was a worthwhile cause and that they would be able to arrest every man (or woman) who arrived at the house with the intention of having sex with a child and therefore became involved in the stings.

It set me thinking, is this a good approach? Should we name and shame these people? Many of the men who were caught were in positions of responsibility and could be people that children go to for advice; one was a Rabbi, one was a Teacher.

Jim Gamble of the Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre said he was interested in the idea but that he would not be interested in supporting the scheme unless it was a police lead initiative because much like the first few American stings, there was no way of following up and prosecuting these people unless the police were involved.

I would really like your thoughts on the idea of the American organisation. Is this something we should consider in the UK? Please post a comment

For some information about last nights programme, click this link.

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