The founder of a vigilante group which confronts people it suspects of being involved in grooming children before turning them over to the police is setting up his first Scottish branch in Glasgow tomorrow.
Rob Hunter, who runs Creep Catchers UK from his base in Chester, Cheshire, has travelled to Scotland in recent months leading to two arrests. Police Scotland has warned people against “taking the law into their own hands”.
There are 16 different vigilante-style groups in the UK with new ones being set up in Edinburgh, the Highlands and Aberdeen within months. The targeted men have arranged to meet a “young person” they have met online but who is in fact a Creep Catchers member.
Hunter, using an alias to protect his anonymity, said an under-resourced Police Scotland could not tackle the scale of child-grooming online. “When we have enough evidence, we go to someone’s home, introduce ourselves, put the evidence to them and film the whole thing. Then we call the police and give them the video.
“We don’t condone violence. But the police and the Scottish Government are not doing enough,” said Hunter, who established Creep Catchers UK in May.
“We’re sick of police covering things up because they can’t cope. These men get out of jail after something like 16 months. Where’s the justice in that?”
However, Hunter and his team of six volunteers have had differing responses from police across Scotland.
“We’ve had some who have been arrogant and just blanked us and others who’ve shaken our hands. We’ve even got some investigating officers giving us weekly updates on cases.”
Detective Superintendent Elaine Galbraith, of Police Scotland, said: “We ask people not to take the law into their own hands. Let the police do their job and manage the risk presented by suspected offenders.
“Revealing the identity of suspected offenders can jeopardise ongoing investigations and can give suspects the opportunity to destroy evidence. It can also put children at risk by making it difficult to identify victims or potential victims.
“In addition, identifying individuals could indeed heighten risk should, for instance, suspects or offenders go missing. It may have an adverse affect on the lives of family members or concerns may be raised for an individual’s safety.”
A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Law enforcement should always be left to the authorities. But rather than having a force with all the support and resources they need, we have one desperately trying to balance the books.
“The government must listen to the serious concerns of Audit Scotland, rank and file officers, and their own backbenchers and invest in Police Scotland.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is the police rather than the public who are best placed to respond to crime.”