A gay couple who were wrongly accused of being paedophiles by a vigilante “hunter group” say their lives have been ruined by the false claims.
The couple, named only as Jordan and Ben, from West Sussex, south of London, were targeted by the Yorkshire Child Protectors (YCP) group, who live-streamed police arresting them to around 30,000 people online.
The false sting took place when the pair were visiting Jordan’s sister in the city and were confronted by a mob outside her home.
The news comes a day after a report showed police in England and Wales are becoming “increasingly worried” about the methods of so-called “paedophile hunter” vigilante groups who set up fake child profiles online to snare offenders.
Both men received homophobic slurs and abuse as they were cornered and filmed by the group, before police arrived at the scene to arrest them.
But when officers seized their mobile phones, it became clear they were innocent – as the decoy was still receiving messages from the suspect.
The original Facebook post containing the live stream of the couple’s arrest has since been taken down.
Although the group has since apologised and blamed the setup on false intelligence from other vigilantes, one of the couple has told of the consequences of being wrongly accused.
“The groups involved didn’t do enough to say sorry and clear our names,” Ben said.
“We have today published our story to the tabloids and want you to know the truth.
“These groups cannot be allowed to continue with their renegade ways.”
Earlier this week, Dan Vajzovic, of the National Police Chiefs' Council, said self-styled hunters often divert police resources away from other offenders and commit offences themselves during their operations.
"Some of those prosecutions may have diverted police resources from more significant offenders,” Mr Vajzovic said.
“Overall the activity of these groups is not positive."
Yahoo News UK contacted Humberside Police, who declined to comment on the incident, but said of vigilante hunter groups the “sting” posted online impact on the work police do.
“(They) divert us from the core business of our specialist officers, and can impede on our own investigations,” police said.
“It could give a suspect time to delete evidence, or even move away from a location before we can fully investigate.
“If there is evidence available against a person, then we will investigate it in an appropriate and proportional way.
“Our priority is the protection and the safety of the public and victims, and to investigate, find and prosecute child sex offenders.”
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.