A team of investigative journalists has exposed six alleged paedophiles after posing as a 14-year-old girl in an online sting operation.
The Jersey Evening Post’s investigation team snared the men, aged between 19 and 40, after creating a fake profile on a popular dating app as part of a report highlighting the risks of child sexual exploitation on the internet.
The team said they revealed to each man that their fictional girl was under the age of consent, despite the profile saying she was 18 (the minimum age to set up an account), and let them respond without leading them.
“Many left once they realised they were talking to a minor,” said an Evening Post spokesperson. “Some returned and shared non-sexual messages, while others tried to develop an increasingly sexual relationship.
“Messages from the six men included asking the girl if she was a virgin, if she ‘touched herself’, if the pair could kiss when they met and perform other, extremely graphic, sexual acts. Others tried to arrange meetings at various public places and invited them to their homes.”
The six men’s details have been sent to local police who have confirmed they are investigating.
The special report ran across a spread on pages four and five in Saturday’s edition of the Evening Post and took the front page with a blurred out picture of one of the men who was attempting to meet the paper’s ‘girl’ in a park after allegedly grooming her online.
A spokesperson for the paper said: “Even in an Island as safe and beautiful as Jersey, opportunistic child sex offenders will seek to take advantage of young people if they think no one is watching.
“These men involved in our report didn’t go looking for children, they were on adult sites, but when the opportunity came about they pounced. One man even tried to meet our ‘girl’ in a family park for sex after exchanging some frankly shocking sexual messages.”
They added: “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.”
Detective Inspector Mark Hafey, head of the States of Jersey Police’s Public Protection Unit, said the evidence was typical of opportunistic predators.
“There are so many social media forums used by young people, and males looking to groom them will be braver on the internet. Would these guys ever say these things in person? No, probably not. But on apps it is easy for them,” he said.
“Just because your kids are up in their bedroom does not mean they cannot be a victim of child sexual exploitation. I would argue that a child is safer out riding their bike and playing with friends than they are on the internet.”
The Evening Post has said it intends to maintain a fictional online presence, under a number of different names following its report.
“Our online presence, to protect the island’s children, will not stop here,” said a spokesperson. “Think you can get away with grooming a young girl? Think again.”