A fierce debate has erupted among the Midlands media over the tactics of a self-styled paedophile hunter who describes himself as a journalist.
Stinson Hunter has dedicated himself to ensnaring predatory paedophiles online by setting up online profiles for underage girls, then waiting to be contacted.
However his activities have started to polarize views among newspapers on his patch following his appearance in a hard-hitting TV documentary.
While the Coventry Telegraph exposed the 33-year-old’s prison record and Burton Mail reporter Steve Ashby questioned his credentials as a “so-called journalist,” his hometown paper the Nuneaton News has backed his plans to “take his crusade to Parliament.”
Mr Hunter, who describes himself as a journalist on his Facebook page, says he was inspired to start his work by the TV investigative journalist Roger Cook, whose Cook Report programme was a huge hit in the late 80s and 90s.
“He is a legend. He inspired me, his no-nonsense attitude towards it, he was controversial and I wanted to be controversial too,” he told the Nuneaton News in a recent interview.
“From day one, all I have wanted to do is hold up a mirror to society and say ‘look, this is happening and something needs to be done about it.”
However in the Burton Mail’s ‘According To’ column, where the paper’s journalists are afforded a personal opinion, reporter Steve Ashby said he didn’t appreciate Hunter parading around “calling himself a journalist.”
Wrote Steve: “I can see why he might come to that conclusion – after all, he does conduct his research and he even gives the men he captures the chance to defend themselves, and then posts this online.
“However, as a reporter for the Burton Mail if I decided to take this exact method of luring out a predator and then bombarding him with photographers and interrogation before splashing their face on the front page, I would expect to wind up in court.
“There are already so many things that give journalists a bad name, so the thought of adding a vigilante to the list doesn’t appeal to me,” he went on.
“He either needs to conform to the same standards that all journalists do, or he needs to stop calling himself one.”
The Tamworth Herald, Hunter’s local paper in his formative years when he was imprisoned after a £250,000 arson attack on an empty school, agreed that “everyone is united in their revulsion to paedophiles”.
But in a leader column last month the paper admitted that “Hunter’s methods can be divisive.”
The weekly added: “He has thousands of fans on the Internet, but many question what he does, not least the police who have shown real concerns over his actions. Similar stings by others have failed to end in convictions and left innocent people’s lives in tatters.
“That is the devastating power of the lens.”
The vigilante’s actions have had the most tragic consequences when it emerged that last June a 46-year-old man killed himself after he was confronted by Hunter over claims he had groomed a 12-year-old girl.
However other people he has ensnared have been successfully convicted on his evidence.
Mr Hunter stands by his actions in the wake of criticism that suspects are ‘tried’ on social media before being taken to court.
He added: “I am going to carry on, I am still going to do it but I am going to do it in a different way.”