Paedophile hunters are putting convictions at risk
It's so important that those who groom and sexually abuse children are brought to justice and our communities protected. It is a vile and unacceptable crime.
But entrapment by self-appointed paedophile hunters who pose as children is risky and the evidence they gather may not even be admissible in court. There's no control, no boundaries and no governance.
This is something that has been echoed recently after a case was thrown out of Bristol Crown Court after the misconduct of a paedophile hunter in initiating a sexual conversation with the defendant.
I recognise that these hunters are bringing offenders to police attention, but these investigations are complex and evidence must be collected meticulously, without entrapment.
I acknowledge that policing budgets are under strain and that the change in demand continues to put additional pressure on Wiltshire Police.
But I can assure you that the tackling of child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a strategic priority for our Force. Significant investment has been put into the investigation of CSE online and our officers are working closely with partner agencies and our police colleagues across the South West.
We have specially trained officers and staff in Wiltshire Police and across the South West.
Significant investment has been made to enable them to investigate paedophile suspects who operate online.
Any police officer will tell you that evidence-gathering is a very specialised job. It takes a great deal of training, skill and knowledge to gather evidence that can bring an offender to justice.
Whilst the motives of the self-styled hunters are no doubt laudable, they may unwittingly be jeopardising police investigations. The best way forward may be for those individuals to work alongside the police tackling crime, such as a special constable instead of taking it into their own hands.