The 26-year-old has worked in the shadows of the internet for over three years – posing online as a child to snare sexual predators.
To date, her evidence has put numerous offenders behind bars. And figures, released yesterday, show evidence gathered by the Islander and passed to States police detectives led to eight convictions last year for the charge of ‘attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming’.
The new data shows that only seven of the 41 forces – including Greater Manchester (39), Northumbria (27) and Nottinghamshire (17) – in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that responded recorded a higher number of convictions for the charge as a result of evidence gathered by so-called hunters. There are 44 forces in total.
And Miss O’Connor, who has connections with many of the approximately 200 paedophile-hunting teams across Britain, said, on average, each team has ‘six to eight’ hunters and they use ‘eight to ten decoys’. Miss O’Connor is a one-woman operation.
She said: ‘I’ll carry on for as long as I’m needed, and at the moment I’m clearly very much needed as there are still online groomers and there are still real children being groomed. There is still so much awareness and change that needs to be made.’
She also praised the police for the work they had done on her cases so far.
The St Helier resident recently posted a list of more than 130 allegedly convicted sex offenders on social media. The list, which was posted on a group followed by thousands of people, included the names of offenders serving sentences and also some who completed their sentences many years ago.
States police Detective Superintendent Stewart Gull described the list as ‘unhelpful’ and ‘inflammatory’. The JEP understands Miss O’Connor is due to meet with senior officers and the head of the Probation Service this week.
In the UK, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for online child abuse activist groups, Assistant Chief Constable Dan Vajzovic said the activity of so-called vigilante groups ‘is not positive’.
He said groups can themselves commit offences and some were more interested in ‘putting a video online of them carrying out a sting’ than actually protecting children.
Last week, a group of men in Leeds who were operating a paedophile-hunting group were cleared of false imprisonment and assault charges.
Miss O’Connor, who also runs the ‘child protection service’ Unknown Jersey and even has her own branded-clothing, defended her work and denied she does it for the limelight.
‘It brings awareness and members of the public trust me to bring information publicly or to the police or to keep a note of things they tell me of people to watch. Those who think I enjoy the limelight are irrelevant to me, they are just finding anything they can to have a dig because they have no other point against me.’
Asked to explain why she does what she does, Miss O’Connor said: ‘Given the findings from not only the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry but also from my own experience [helping abuse victims] it became clear to me that policing procedures and practices regarding the safety of our youth needed an upgrade – not only in regards to online safety but in education as well. I hope that my work serves as awareness for our youth, and a deterrent for would be offenders.’
According to figures released following a Freedom of Information request, there were a total of 403 convictions for ‘attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming’ across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Jersey last year. Of those, 252 convictions involved information gathered by so-called hunters.
In Jersey there were nine convictions for the charge, eight of which involved evidence gathered by a so-called paedophile hunter – Miss O’Connor.
In 2016, the JEP carried out its own undercover investigation into online sexual predators. That work led to the jailing of one man for nine months and the conviction of two others for sexual grooming offences. Cases on two other individuals were kept on file.