Fair Play for Children News —The recent suicide of a man subjected to a paedophile sting operation is not the first

by Jan Cosgrove

The recent suicide of a man subjected to a paedophile sting operation is not the first an unless there is a crack-down it will not be the last.

Those who operate these set-a-trap justify their activities by an appeal, an easy one when all’s said and done, that they are doing what is necessary and they point to public approval. This is easy to come by. Man trapped, approached, video;d social media, job done.

What we are not told is whether these groups, any of them, have innocent blood or even reputations, lives ruined, on their hands if not consciences. Sooner or later, that will happen and not one of them will stand justified by pointing to all those they outed.

The problem lies in a disregard for the Rule of Law. By entrapping people, they may be able to justify their actions up to a point but we see clear in the “i” story when this is ill-founded and it is based in a freely-admitted view that there is no trust in the police to do their job. At the point at which they approach a targeted person, that is when they cross the line of what is acceptable. They abrogate to themselves the right to apprehend on suspicion yet there is no extension of a vaguely-understood power of citizen’s arrest that could cover that.

In short, the practice is dangerous. What is missing is any explanation of why they do not simply give information to the Police which would include logs of conversations and photo/video taken of an person seeming to arrive at an agreed venue etc. Without the risky practice of confrontation. When is a death by suicide justified. The worst penalty of the guilty falls short of capital punishment (please let’s not what it ought to be etc, deal with the law of our land under that Rule of Law, the rest is mob law). And if the person was innocent, then that is causing death by irresponsible actions, in all fairness in such a case the police would need to investigate and consider taking action.

Public vigilance (note difference in words) and SHARING are the keywords of public engagement in prevention and detection/apprehension.

Fair Play for Children was one of the earliest organisations engaged in child protection in children’s activity settings, we were involved in a Home Office funded pilot from 1984 which gave for the first time access to criminal records information to voluntary groups, in 2000 we organised a National Conference for junior football leagues on the issue, the FA’s attitude to that is quite another story.

On vigilante groups such as this we need clear ACPO/Home Office action, maybe a charter/statutory or other guidance:

  • Under what circumstances such activity can be permissible
  • What it is intended to do
  • Registration
  • Model charter
  • Permitted activity
  • Protocols for sharing including non-sharing to press and public unless there is a conviction/ caution etc

Note: Fair Play for Children, founded by Bishop Trevor Huddleston in 1972, works to promote The Child’s Right to Play and associated Rights in the UN Convention on the Rights of The Child. Jan has been National Secretary of Fair Play for Children since 1991.

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