Letzgo Hunting denies blame for man's suicide

Generic girl using a tablet computer
Image caption Letzgo Hunting contacts men by posing as girls

A vigilante group which claims to "expose paedophiles" has said it is not to blame for the suicide of a man it confronted.

Gary Cleary was found hanged at his Leicestershire home on 13 May - four days after he was arrested by police.

The Letzgo Hunting group claims it gathered evidence Mr Cleary was a paedophile after contacting him online and posing as a 14-year-old girl.

But police said the 29-year-old had not been charged with any offences.

The Leicestershire force would not say what crime Mr Cleary had been arrested on suspicion of, but confirmed he had been interviewed by officers and released on bail.

Letzgo Hunting poses as girls under the age of consent and chats to men online, saving the conversations as evidence.

The group then arranges to meet the men in public places, and confronts them about their alleged actions while they are filmed.

In April, Letzgo Hunting told BBC Radio 5 live's Victoria Derbyshire: "We're not there to hurt anybody."

'Sorry for his family'

But the group said it would not change its methods following the death of Mr Cleary, who lived in Newbold Verdon.

A spokesperson told the BBC: "We told Victoria if anyone hurt a person we caught we would stop; that doesn't include self-harm."

The group told the Leicester Mercury: "We feel sorry for his family for the loss of their son."

Leicestershire Police and neighbouring Nottinghamshire Police said they were not aware of any cases where the involvement of Letzgo Hunting had led to any offenders being charged.

Letzgo Hunting has claimed that its investigation into a Nottingham man, called James Stone, led to him being convicted of sexual offences against a 15-year-old girl.

But Nottinghamshire Police said Stone was arrested after the girl's mother contacted them.

Letzgo Hunting told the BBC it had recorded online chats with both Gary Cleary and James Stone, and filmed meetings with both men.

The online conversations and footage were then given to police, the group said.

"All of our evidence is passed to police, otherwise they wouldn't have been arrested," said a spokesperson.

Stone has pleaded guilty to grooming, making an indecent image, possessing indecent images, possession of an indecent image with a view to distribution, possession of extreme pornography and two counts of sexual activity with a child.

Six of these charges relate to the 15-year-old girl, but none of the charges relates to material gathered by Letzgo Hunting.

Stone, 24, who lives in Nottingham city centre, is due to be sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court on Friday.

'Loss of evidence'

The Letzgo Hunting website is currently down, with a message saying it is in "maintenance mode".

Det Insp Martin Hillier, of Nottinghamshire Police, said the force was encountering "a worrying increase in those who think they can take the law into their own hands when it comes to internet grooming cases".

He said posting videos of alleged offenders online could "compromise any subsequent criminal proceedings" and lead to the collapse of court cases.

"Most importantly, any delay in reporting cases such as this to the police can lead to loss of evidence, and, crucially, delays the provision of vital medical treatment or psychological support that the victim may need," he said.

"If you suspect someone of online grooming or sexual offences, or indeed any crime, the only course of action should be to call the police immediately."

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