Living on a Thin Line: The Emergence of Online Hunting Groups in the U.K.

Guest Post:

“all the stories have been told, of kings and days of old, but there’s no England now…”

Living on a Thin Line, The Kinks, 1984.


Over the past several years the U.K has experienced the emergence of a growing number of online predator hunting groups, run exclusively by private citizens who have increasingly lost confidence in the agencies and institutions designed to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse.

This new phenomenon can possibly best be understood when taking into account the fundamental changes in the eyes of the public in light of the fallout from scandals such as Rotherham and Jimmy Saville.

Another important aspect is the dramatic changes that the new social media landscape has had on the ability for people to communicate across distances and times which until recently would have been deemed unthinkable.

Sounds to me like a ‘Perfect Storm’.

In a recent radio interview, one well-known hunter by the name of Shane Brannigan spoke about the percentage of online grooming convictions put through the courts in 2016. Almost half of these cases (48%) were as a result of private citizens operating in online hunting groups.

Brannigan is an interesting character within the Hunting Community. As one of the first to actively operate he has experienced an enormous amount of feedback, both in the positive and the negative.

His hunting style can perhaps be best described as a ‘warts n all’ approach, interspersed with Cockney patois and a no-nonsense confrontational attitude. As a survivor of sexual abuse from a young age, Brannigan is in the rather unique position of having an intimate understanding of the enormous amount of damage perpetrated against children and vulnerable adults, coupled with a media presence and social platform to broaden the public’s awareness of the scale of the problem at hand.

Unfortunately, Brannigan’s abrupt manner and vicious honesty keep him out of most polite circles which is perhaps more of a reflection on the fact that an overwhelming majority of victims are to be found within the Working Class and can, therefore, be more easily dismissed by the U.K. establishment.

The U.K general public’s willingness to engage with its civic institutions of care and protection has reached such a parlous state that more and more citizens are choosing to take the law into their own hands in order to provide a more robust level of online security for children and vulnerable adults.

 

One recurring complaint being heard more and more from people within Hunting Groups can best be described as a feeling of being abandoned by the Justice system, with not enough weight and recognition given to the voices of victims and survivors. Sound familiar?

It is this humble writer’s belief that until these voices are heard and respected, no meaningful change will occur and that the emergence of this new online hunting community is the inevitable outcome of a society whose faith and respect for its systems of governance and justice have reached such an ebb that the ‘ordinary’ people have finally had enough.

 


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