VIGILANTE paedophile hunters lured an alleged offender to a Chester pub then posted a video of the confrontation on YouTube.
Cheshire Police are trying to trace the hunters and the hunted in the video shot in City Road which had attracted more than 26,000 views but which now appears to have been removed.
One of the two hunters appears to have posed as a 14-year-old girl on a dating website, with allegations that messages of a sexual nature were posted by the 23-year-old ‘target’.
Arrangements were made for the man, who had travelled by train from Liverpool, to meet up with the fake teenager in Chester but the hunters were lying in wait with a camera to record the interrogation after revealing their true motive.
Cheshire Constabulary say there is a potential offence of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity dependant upon the full circumstances and the particulars of the investigation.
But officers warn that anyone thinking of becoming a vigilante could find themselves facing prosecution.
The target initially suggested he was at the pub to enquire about doing a gig with his band but soon admitted he was there to meet a girl for a possible overnight stay.
He said later: “I don’t think I could have gone through with doing anything. I would have gone through ID and I would have said ‘how old actually are you?’”
The shocked young man was concerned about the implications, saying: “Is this something that’s going to stay with me?”
The hunters, whose identities are unknown, have received national coverage for shaming alleged online perverts across the UK and claim another Chester video will be posted soon. They say their aim is to change the law to give police the power to trap paedophiles.
Their method is similar to that employed by American reality TV show To Catch A Predator which features hidden camera investigations.
Police in Warwickshire have confirmed that one of their stings resulted in the arrest of a 65-year-old man.
Detective Inspector Ian Morgan, of Cheshire Constabulary, said: “We are working with other neighbouring forces to identify the people featured in the video and will investigate robustly any offences that may have been committed.
“We do not encourage individuals to take the law into their own hands and anyone who takes this approach could find themselves under prosecution.
“Our priority is the safety and wellbeing of children and any vulnerable individuals and any instance where their wellbeing is compromised will be thoroughly investigated.”
One of the hunters posted on Twitter: “This must be embarrassing to the police though. I get more results than them.”
Online comments have been mixed.
One tweeter said: “Keep up the good work, need to rid this country of this dirty scum!”
Another wrote: “Exposing paedophiles makes you my hero.”
But an opponent described the activity as entrapment and suspected the hunters themselves send explicit texts to entice the men.
He said: “These ‘paedophiles’ they catch are in some cases not paedophiles at all – just lonely men who've done something very stupid indeed.”