Mansfield "paedophile hunter" calls for tougher sentences

A paedophile hunter who has snared dozens of suspects has called for tougher sentences for those who commit sex crimes against children.

Patrick Fripps, from Mansfield, is the founder of Keeping Kids Safe, a group of mainly parents who mount sting operations against perverts who groom young people online and arrange to meet them for sex.

Do you know who your child is talking to online? (Picture posed by models)

Do you know who your child is talking to online? (Picture posed by models)

The group uses decoys, who set up accounts on popular internet forums mainly used by teenagers and pretend to be underage children.

Many decoys are themselves survivors of sexual abuse.

Patrick and his team of ex-doormen arrange to meet up with the alleged offenders in stings which are broadcast on the group's Facebook page to other hunter groups.

Information and evidence is then passed on to the police.

SENTENCING

Patrick said: "I am pushing for legislation to change - I'd like to see longer sentences for those who commit these crimes."

Currently, under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, It is an offence to arrange a meeting with a child under 16, with the intent of sexually abusing the child.

Someone found guilty of this offence will, on summary conviction, face up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine.

If they are convicted in the Crown Court the maximum prison sentence is 14 years.

Section 15 of act also makes it a criminal offence to meet a child following the grooming process, and if found guilty, the offender can face up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine if tried in the magistrates’ court, or a maximum prison sentence of 10 years if they are convicted in the Crown Court.

However, Patrick says this is not enough.

"I'd like to see groups like Keeping Kids Safe be able to apply for some sort of licence, where we can be checked by police to become a kind of civilian detective."

METHODS

The methods many 'hunter' groups use, such as live streaming confrontations with alleged paedophiles, has been criticised for presenting a risk to work being undertaken by police.

Their aim is to rid the internet of those who prey on children, which Patrick says is an 'epidemic.'

There have also been instances of other vigilante group 'sting' leading to suicides

Patrick said: "There has been an instance where we have confronted someone and they have threatened suicide.

"In my eyes, once we know we have got the right person, I don't care if they kill themselves."

Patrick does not live stream the groups 'stings' to the public, but rather other hunter groups.

KEEPING KIDS SAFE

Patrick has now extended his group to cover Scotland and Wales, and has 45 decoys dotted around the UK.

"It is an epidemic, and many people don't realise how bad it is.", said the 29-year-old.

"Because I've done this loads, I can shut off, but every so often we get really bad cases.

"Some messages we receive are absolutely horrible - messages from one person nearly ruined me.

"I couldn't eat or sleep for four days after I saw the category A images of children."

Category A is extremely graphic images.

"I like to go camping without my phone to get away from it all."

Patrick says he is not worried about the threat of violence on stings - his team is mainly made up of ex - door staff who are 'big lads'.

ADVICE FOR PARENTS

Patrick, who has two sons and a daughter, has this advice for parents:

Keep an eye out for a change in your child's attitude

Be aware if they seem to receive gifts, or begins to act secretive.

Check your child's devices, such as phones or ipads.

The NCPCC says:

The signs of grooming aren't always obvious and groomers will often go to great lengths not to be identified.

If a child is being groomed they may:

Be very secretive, including about what they are doing online

Have older boyfriends or girlfriends

go to unusual places to meet friends

Have new things such as clothes or mobile phones that they can't or won't explain

have access to drugs and alcohol.

In older children, signs of grooming can easily be mistaken for 'normal' teenage behaviour, but you may notice unexplained changes in behaviour or personality, or inappropriate sexual behaviour for their age.

If you are concerned about a child, please contact police in the first instance.

Check NSPCC.org.uk for more information.