Stinson Hunter's vigilante methods of catching sexual predators may divide opinion; but there is no denying that he has raised awareness of an issue we should all be concerned about.
For those of you who have yet to come across the self-dubbed Paedophile Hunter, a man named Stinson Hunter, he is a bit of a maverick in the world of catching and bringing justice to both potential and active predators who prove a danger to young people on the internet and beyond.
When I first came across him through his website and then via a Channel 4 documentary which followed some of his cases, I must admit to being dubious and more than a little concerned by methods which seemed dangerous and a little renegade. At first glance, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Stinson and his small team are of the 'Grab your pitchforks and wildly accuse' ilk that is quite prevalent in Britain and indeed the world. People who are a little too free with accusations of impropriety and who incite violence and mob law as a consequence which can ruin sometimes innocent lives.
We all know the famous anecdote, based in fact, of the doctor who was attacked and killed by a bloodthirsty mob for being a paediatrician; with the perpetrators of the violence having mistaken the word for paedophile.
Dig past the surface of Stinson's appearance, his criminal past (which he does nothing to hide or glamorise) and the misconceptions surrounding vigilante work, and it becomes very apparent that his work runs far more deeply and more complex than just waging a war of hate against people who may or may not be criminals.
Stinson sets the original bait which goes on to catch out some of the most depraved people you will find targeting children online but it is by no means a honeytrap. Posing as an underage child, Stinson gives the perpetrators every opportunity to back out of their subsequent actions. He clearly warns them that they are dealing with someone underage. He makes them explicitly say that they are seeking sex with a minor before taking any actions and he jumps to no early conclusions; the transcripts of conversations he releases are proof to this.
When he then goes to confront the perpetrators, who do turn up fully thinking they are meeting a child, it isn't to wage violence. It is to build evidence to send to the police. Even being almost killed in a hit and run attack by one person who went on to be convicted doesn't tempt Stinson to carry a more ruthless and violent approach to his work.
He isn't out to hunt down people and shame them for glory. His mission is simple and important: to raise the issue and to get more funding for the police who should be the ones catching these criminals. His work has led to many convictions of people who either have done or will undoubtedly go on to harm children. He isn't a gossip monger; he deals in facts, which is where other vigilantes go wrong.
The sad fact of the matter is that the police are under funded and understaffed to take on operations and to carry out thorough investigations that could make the internet a safer place for our children. It is a dark place, where all kinds of people can anonymously behave in the most depraved of ways and we are all guilty of letting children be a little too free on it. However, short of banning all electrical devices, there is little we can do ourselves except educate ourselves and our children to the dangers that are out there.
Stinson Hunter's work does this. Whether or not you agree with his methods or you even like him as a person, he cannot be condemned for bringing this issue to the mainstream and at least trying to do something about it. He is not an unreasonable man and he is by no means perfect; he is willing to take on opposing views. I have called out his methods a few times on Twitter and he always responds calmly and backs up his views with detailed responses.
Take some time to really look at the work he has done. If you can stomach it, read some of the transcripts and watch some of the videos of people he has confronted and you will see very clearly that these people have been trapped in nothing. They are behaving this way of their own free will. And, until the police are in a better position to be able to tackle this head on, I am glad that there are those out there, like Stinson, who can at least keep the issue on the radar for the people holding the purse-strings and controlling the law.
The Paedophile Hunter is perhaps the wrong name for Stinson. He is an educator, not a hunter.
Here is a link to his website, where you can find out more: http://stinson-hunter.com/
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