Investigative journalists at an island daily have snared six alleged paedophiles in an online sting.
Two reporters at the Jersey Evening Post posed as a 14-year-old girl using a fake profile on a dating app to highlight the risks children face on the internet.
Each of the men, aged between 19 and 40, was told of the fictional girl’s age immediately, despite the profile stating she was 18, which is the minimum age at which users can set up an account.
The investigation was carried on the front page of Saturday’s edition, pictured below.
Each of the men was allowed to respond without being led, with some leaving after realising they were talking to a minor and others returning and sharing non-sexual messages.
However, others became increasingly sexual in their responses – with messages from the six asking her if she was a virgin, if she ‘touched herself’ and if they could kiss her when they met.
Others detailed graphic sex acts and tried to arrange meetings at public places and in their homes.
One 25-year-old man even tried to meet the ‘girl’ in a popular family park ‘after school’. The man was followed by a reporter on a public bus to the park, where he was photographed.
The identities of the two reporters involved have been withheld by the JEP.
Under the UK Sexual Offences Act 2003 a person aged 18 or over commits an offence if they have met or communicated with someone who is under the age of 16 on at least two occasions or if they travel with the intention of meeting a person who is under the age of 16.
The sextet’s details have now been sent to the States of Jersey Police, who are investigating, and the newspaper has made clear its intention to name the men if court proceedings are brought against them.
An editorial in the JEP reads: “The six men, whose details have been passed on to detectives, did not deliberately seek out a child for sex but they were opportunistic. After stumbling across a child they decided to pursue her.
“There were offers of gifts and money as well as a constant stream of compliments. That sort of behaviour with a teenage girl, who might be struggling with confidence and insecurities as many children are at that age, is something that they would latch on to.
“It was worrying to see how quickly the conversation escalated and how, after just a handful of messages, the men would become forceful, sending two, three or even four messages if they hadn’t received a reply – particularly if the conversation was sexually explicit or they were asking to meet.
“This sort of behaviour could leave a 14-year-old feeling pressured and almost bullied into replying to this person and ultimately meeting them.”
The JEP now intends to maintain a number of fictional profiles online as a result of the investigation.