This one-off observational documentary follows controversial online vigilante Stinson Hunter and his associates, who pose as underage children on social networking sites in order to identify and draw out men they assert have paedophilic predilections.
Self-styled ‘undercover journalist’ Hunter and his team engage men in conversation online on 18+ sites, whilst pretending to be children, then lure them into meeting. The unsuspecting men arrive at the predetermined address to be confronted by Hunter. He and his team show the ‘mark’ the evidence of their online, text and phone conversations and film the ensuing interrogation. Hunter informs the men he will hand this file to the police and he will be will posting the confrontation and evidence online.
Multiple Bafta-winning Director Dan Reed (Terror in Mumbai, Legally High) captures the ‘catches’ from Hunter’s initial introductions online through to the final confrontations. In this extraordinary documentary, Reed explores the shocking scale of the problem of online grooming and the complex relationship between the vigilantes, the police and people who use social network sites to groom underage children. He also looks into Hunter’s troubled past and his motivation for catching sexual predators, challenging him on his actions which can have devastating consequences for the men when he posts videos of them online.
Hunter’s attempts to gather admissible evidence for the police to act upon has secured a number of convictions for attempting to commit the offence of grooming and his methods are not entirely dissimilar to those used by covert police officers. But, as this film reveals, his actions have brought about serious repercussions for both himself and the men he entraps by ‘outing’ them on the internet. Reed is told how one man who was ‘caught’ by Hunter committed suicide after videos were uploaded to social networking sites.
The film features interviews with police and legal experts who tackle child exploitation – they highlight the dangers for vigilantes, the people they target and their families – and also the risk of affecting evidence and police investigations. But on one thing they all agree, the astonishing prevalence of paedophile grooming online and the very real danger for children online. As one former police covert internet investigator says, vigilantes like Hunter are ‘shooting fish in a barrel.’