SAM Miller is every online paedophile’s worst nightmare.
For the last four years, the 27-year-old has made it his personal mission to strike fear into every online sex predator prepared to trawl the internet looking for children to sexually exploit.
His record for success has been impressive.
Though not supported by the police, Sam has helped trap around 360 child sex perverts. Half were successfully prosecuted, with around 75 jailed.
Several Cumbrians have been among them, including former Cleator Moor man Ian Kerr Mason, 49, jailed last month after he unwittingly groomed one of Sam’s online volunteer decoys.
Mason planned to take his grooming further – but he was arrested after travelling to Gateshead with ‘sex toys’ and equipment to meet a ‘14-year-old girl’.
The ‘child’ turned out to be Sam Miller. So why do this controversial work? “I started in August, 2017,” he says.
“My friend’s daughter was groomed online. She was 10-years-old. It all came to light after a month and was duly reported to the police, but they didn’t find the person responsible.
“My friend just couldn’t come to terms with that. It ruined their lives. He took his own life. He was 29.
“He was a very good friend; we’d been friends since we were at school. He was a lovely lad; he’d been in the marines, served his country. He had integrity.”
Galvanised into action, Sam began his own investigation – and found the culprit. He was jailed for 28 months. It was only as Sam began his investigation that he realised how huge the problem was.
“There’s an abundance of men out there with a sexual interest in children,” says Sam, who has been hunting online for paedophiles ever since.
A parcel delivery firm manager, Sam now spends more than 30 hours a week chasing internet perverts.
“I could put a picture of a young girl – aged 12, 13, 14 – on Facebook and within half an hour she’ll have about 300 friend requests from middle-aged men. I run a team of decoys.”
“When I first started doing this, I’d get really annoyed. “But now, I’m more detached; I look straight through them and think: ‘You’re going to jail. See you later.”
He and his fellow volunteers work across the UK. Asked why online sex offending is now so prevalent? Sam says the root of the problem is a lack of regulation for social media, making it the perfect tool for sexual predators.
He says: “It’s gone wrong because there are insufficient checks on social media. There’s insufficient safeguarding. We need tougher legislation.
“If a person wants to gamble on a website, you have to send in proof of your bank card, and sometimes even a driving licence before you account is verified. I
“It should be the same with Facebook; you should have to prove who you are before opening an account – with a copy of your passport or driving licence or some other ID.
“The reality is that it could be anybody behind the computer screen.” Facebook is awash with people hiding behind false names, says Sam.
The system he and his fellow volunteers use involves locating people who want to groom children, gathering the evidence that they need for a prosecution – and then confronting the offender.
In some cases, volunteers film these encounters, revealing the painful moment when an offender realises his sordid “secret” is out. “We draw a detailed plan,” says Sam.
“It consists of who’s calling the police; who’s knocking on the door; who’s going round the back; and who’ll ring an ambulance if anything untoward happens, which thankfully it never has.
“Then we knock on the door.” The group’s volunteers include social workers – an area of expertise that is useful when the offender is a parent, says Sam. On one occasion, the target of the sting was so shocked, he fainted.
What does Sam aim to achieve?
Sam answers: “To send out a clear message: that if you go online to groom children there’s a good chance you’ll be held accountable. In a case in Newcastle the other day, the Judge said media coverage is extremely important.
“It’s t part of the punishment. The best punishment that these people get by a clear mile is being exposed to the public.”
Some offenders are so entrenched in their sexual psychology, believes Sam, that they can only ever be rendered safe by being jailed. Can such people be ‘cured’? “I think it’s a sexual preference,” answers Sam.
Sam, who is from Newcastle but frequently travels to Cumbria to hunt for child sex perverts with his group Child Online Safety Team, has recently worked on stings in Carlisle, Barrow, Kendal and Whitehaven.
He adds: “Children lose their innocence; online sexual abuse ruins people’s lives. That’s why I do this work and why I’ll keep doing it – to protect children.”
A Cumbria Police spokesman said that the force will act appropriately on any information reported to the force.
“However, the Constabulary’s position on so-called paedophile hunter groups reflects the position of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, in that we understand the desire to protect children but any member of the public who has information about child sexual abuse, online or otherwise, should contact police so it can be investigated and bring offenders to justice.”
If you have a concern, call Cumbria police on 101, or 999 in an emergency. If you are a member of the public with a concern about a childplease contact the Cumbria Safeguarding Hub on 0333 240 1727.
The Cumbrian perverts Sam has helped to trap in that last few years include:
* Ian Kerr Mason, 49, formerly of Cleator Moor but recently living in Carlisle. He ‘befriended’ online a ‘14-year-old girl’. He was arrested after travelling to Gateshead – with sex toys and equipment – to meet her in a car park. He was jailed for 40 months.
* Stephen McCue, 59,of Mona Road, Salterbeck. He had a series of explicitly sexual conversations with a person he believed was a 13-year-old girl, suggesting she might like to show him round the city where she said she lived. He was given a three year community order.
* Justin Bell, 49, from Morton, Carlisle. He made repeated attempts to get girls as young as 13 and 14 to take part in sordid internet sex activity. He was given a suspended jail term.
* Michael Edward Roiston Chapman, 25, of Troutbeck, near Penrith. After being exposed for sexualised chats with a “13-year-old” in 2019 he was jailed. He was a repeat offender.
* To read about one of Sam’s sting on Ian Kerr Mason, click on this headline: Cumbrian pervert trapped by sting planned for sex with child
* Cumbria Police have a detailed web page about Child Sexual Exploitation. It can be found here.
* The Lucy Faithfull Foundation runs at Stop It Now campaign, designed to prevent abuse by reaching out to people who may be at risk of offending. Its website can be found here. The charity also runs a confidential helpline, the number bieng: 0808 1000 900