THE founder of a paedophile hunters group says members work “extremely hard” behind the scenes in a bid to secure convictions.

The past month has seen three separate cases where paedophile hunter groups have snared men they accuse of trying to incite underage girls into sexual activity - largely, if not exclusively, though social networks.

The latest incident saw a group called Team Impact attending an address in Shoebury on March 2 to confront a man who they claimed had been attempting to groom a real 14-year-old girl online, offering money for sexual activity.

The 31-year-old man from Benfleet was later arrested and is set to answer bail on March 27.

The founder of Team Impact has now shared more details on her work.

The woman, named Tilly, is a 32-year-old based in Kent, who has been taking on real child cases for two years. She claims she’s now helped with the arrest of between 80 and 90 paedophiles.

She said: “The decoy cases I worked on before all end up with pitiful sentencings for all perpetrators.

“In one case, I was contacted by a member of the public who had a real child case for me. I sought some advice from police about how to go around it.

“I don’t want to be one of those people that jumps into these cases without extensive research, you need to really figure things out when you pick up a real child case.

“He was no different to any other one. There was a profile on Facebook of two twins who were gymnasts, but the profile was run by their mother.

“He messaged the profile and she began responding, and she realised after a few messages what he was trying to do, and carried the conversation on. It was so realistic he never suspected a thing.

“She then came to us, and it was the perfect chat log. The content of the messages was undeniable, he had asked if an underage girl would have sex with him and he had offered her money.

“Since we did that sting, so many members of the public have come forward.”

Tilly, a former healthcare assistant, said the group will go to cases all over the country, having joined forces with others to allow members to share information and work together to root out more offenders.

She said the groups have faced attacks and opposition for their work, including incidents where people have approached them with knives and hammers, with some members nearly being run over.

There are some who feel the actions the hunter groups only cause more damage. One Shoebury resident, who said she knows the family involved in the sting on March 2, said it left the mother of the man “traumatised”.

She said: “I feel that what the vigilante groups are doing are causing a huge amount of distress, especially in this case. It has left his mother frightened in her own home and that is wrong.

“I feel they should get the evidence they feel is reliable evidence admissible for a legal proceeding and hand it over to the police and let them approach the family.

“This is what they are trained to do in a professional manner without leaving the mother in distress and frightened.

“I understand why these vigilantes do what they do, however taking law into their own hands and visiting addresses which are not where the ‘suspect’ is living, causing emotional torture and suffering to family members is not on.”

But Tilly has defended the work of Team Impact, arguing the groups work more closely with the police than ever.

She said: “We’re not vigilantes, if we were, we would be hammering down their doors.

“Every time we make an approach, we tell the police first. There’s lots of things now that you can’t get away with anymore.

“You can’t just go out to people’s homes and shout at them in the street. We also get reports some teams go after those with mental disabilities and hindrances, some even go into care homes. We don’t agree with that.

“We do work really hard on getting the evidence and getting the conviction. People need to have a little bit of faith and we work with the police a lot.”

and they are now even more co-operative. When I’ve presented my collection of evidence for a case, no one has ever said it’s anything less than excellent.

“There’s a couple of groups that still behave irresponsibly. Unfortunately it’s those small few that give us all a bad name.”