A Waterlooville man was detained by armed police outside Cosham rail station last night whilst attempting to meet a 13-year-old girl he had allegedly groomed online.
The man – wrongly identified on social media sites as Billy Thorne – was featured on a Facebook live video, which has already been viewed 76 thousand times, posted by a group called Silent Justice.
In the live video, where the self-proclaimed ‘paedophile hunters’ repeatedly misidentify the man to their followers, the male admits to organising a meet with a 13-year-old girl called ‘Jodie’ – a fictitious creation of the Silent Justice group.
The man, who we can now identify as Kieran Maidment, 21, from Waterlooville, also repeatedly admits to having a cocaine problem during the course of the video, and appears to be either slow-witted or under the influence.
Maidment managed to convince the vigilante group he was another man, Billy Joe Thorne, despite looking nothing like him, being considerably younger than him, sporting a distinctive neck tattoo, and having a ginger crew cut, rather than a blond quiff like Thorne.
Thorne, from Titchfield, received a suspended prison sentence in 2015 for sex offence and it becomes apparent during the course of the live video that Maidment is oblivious to the details of that conviction.
After the police arrive the group still believe Maidment to be Thorne, despite officers finding a debit card under Maidment’s real name.
Police have raised concerns about such vigilante operations and have publicly urged anyone with evidence of online grooming to contact them.
Chief Superintendent Thomas Richards, a public protection unit chief, said evidence-gathering was a specialist job that takes time and skill to bring an offender to justice.
Mr Thomas said, “We do have significant concerns about people taking the law into their own hands and the methods they use, and in some cases acting outside of the law, and would strongly advise against getting involved in, or setting up activities to entrap those suspected of intending to commit offences.
“Although seemingly well-meaning, this can significantly hinder our work, compromise on-going investigations and negate months of investigative work.
“There is also the risk that it can potentially identify people who are completely innocent and mistakenly associate them with grooming offences.”
Mr Thomas said the general public may also cause vulnerable people with mental health issues serious risk of harm, and that targeting dangerous offenders and keeping children safe was a “top priority” for police.