At the beginning the year when I was recovering from an injury my YouTube meandering led me to an old episode of the American series “To catch a predator” from 2008 or so. The general gist is that they lure paedophiles to a camera-kitted house then do a ‘big reveal on them that invariably leads to them tackled to the ground by local law enforcement as they try to leave. It’s strangely satisfying, addictive and often unintentionally hilarious (Perp: “Honest, it was my first time”. Host: “We have your police records. You have three previous convictions”. Perp: “OK. Honest, it was only my fourth time.” etc).
Anyway, perhaps retaining the vestige of this viewing, YouTube has started putting a bunch of ‘predator-hunter’ videos in my in-tray. These usually consist of a gang of hunters (their term, not mine) rounding on some poor, hapless paedophile who has been lured to a location by an online decoy. They then proceed to abuse the shit out of them (verbal, not physical, although it is obviously implied) for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour until the police arrive and arrest the paedophile, with the support of the data presented by the hunters. All of these videos come from the UK, US and Canada, presumably because there are legal pathways that allow it (although I have no idea how this evidence stands up in court).
The average hunter, to be blunt, seems to be slightly thick and possibly not inexperienced when it comes to ‘helping the police with their enquiries’. On the other hand, some of them seem to have genuine emotion around this issue with family members etc affected. Some of the perps, on the other side, are obviously mentally ill or drug affected although most of them are externally ‘normal’ and employed, in relationships etc.
So what do you think of this style of vigilante justice? I’m somewhat conflicted. Turning an issue like this into voyeuristic entertainment seems crass, however there also seems to be genuine community frustration in many countries about lenient sentencing and recidivism rates for all types of sexual predator. Is public humiliation the best we can do in 2020?