mccanns pet cop gets savaged

Paedophile hunters are often abusers trying to reinvent themselves as ‘good people’, says former police chief

Jim Gamble, the former head of CEOP
Jim Gamble, the former head of CEOP

Online paedophile hunters are often abusers who are trying to reinvent themselves as “good people”, the UK’s former police child protection head has said.

Jim Gamble QPM, who ran the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP) until 2010, said online vigilantism offered such people a chance to “mask” their past and garner a “status” on social media.

The 59-year-old criticised the effectiveness of some such groups saying he wouldn’t trust them to “walk my dog”.

He said: “They (paedophile hunter groups) attract people with domestic abuse records and coercive control. They give people the opportunity to reinvent themselves as a good person and create this status, to build a Facebook or a Twitter following.

“It makes them feel good about who they are and allows them to mask some of their other behaviours.”

Mr Gamble added that he also knew of well-meaning online vigilantes, who became involved because members of their own families had been victims of sexual abuse and were “trying to do the right thing”.

In a speech at the NSPCC’s How Safe Are Our Children Conference yesterday, Mr Gamble repeated his call for a law to ban people posing as a child online without a reasonable excuse or lawful authority, a common tactic for hunter groups.

In the past, he has called for a ‘citizens’ army’ of more than 1,000 volunteer special police constables to be recruited and trained to catch paedophiles online by posing a children.

Mr Gamble said the initiative would cause groomers to think twice before approaching children online as they currently “don’t think they are going to get caught” by the sporadic efforts of vigilantes.

He added: “Last I heard there were 70 (hunter) groups, some of them I wouldn’t trust to walk my dog – and don’t have a dog.

“There are some who are very good at what they do and engage with police. The fact of the matter is you can’t have that mixed-economy workforce in this sensitive area.

“Policing should learn the lessons from the vigilante experiment and bring it within a criminal justice framework that includes vetting, training and supervision.”

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