Channel 4 is to air The Paedophile Hunter on Wednesday evening, a one off film that head of documentaries Nick Mirsky calls “the most important single documentary we’ve got on the channel this year.”
Directed by Dan Reed (Terror in Mumbai), the observational documentary is a frank, disturbing and eye-opening look at the dangers faced by children in the online world.
It follows controversial online vigilante Stinson Hunter and his associates, who pose as underage children on social networking sites to entrap suspected paedophiles.
They engage men in conversation online and lure them into a meeting, where they are confronted by Hunter. The meeting, and all the evidence leading up to the entrapment is then posted online and handed to the police. The police have secured ten convictions on the basis of Hunter’s work.
To date, Hunter has caught up to 70 people. His exploits in unmasking suspected paedophiles already have a large following online, and his site has over 130,000 followers on Facebook.
However, his work is controversial. One man has committed suicide after being captured and outed online by Hunter.
In the film, which was over a year in the making, Reed captures the ‘catches’, from Hunter’s initial introductions through to the final confrontations.
Mirsky said the documentary was “full of complexities”, both legal and logistic. “At every stage of the process we have had to think very carefully about decisions made.”
He said that the stories of the people featured in the programme are already in the public domain.
Said Mirsky: “It’s clearly a very challenging subject. But I think it is important that you see what is happening, how easy it is for sexual predators to groom children, how it is very, very easy for that to happen on the net.”
Reed said he had been personally shocked by how widespread the problem is.
He said the one of the hopes in making the film was that the police would be better resourced to tackle the problem. Lack of police funding to tackle on online grooming and exploitation is cited as one of the reasons that vigilantes like Hunter have stepped in. “You’d hope there would be injection of funding so they can expand their activities in this area,” said Reed.
The Paedophile Hunter was filmed, produced and directed by Dan Reed through Amos Pictures. The head of production was Rachel Naughton, and it was commissioned by Anna Miralis at Channel 4.