Police warn paedophile hunters after five arrested in Leeds

Police have warned paedophile hunters to stop confronting suspected child abusers after five people were arrested on suspicion of wrongly imprisoning members of the public.

Three men and two women were taken into custody in Leeds on Monday on suspicion of assault, public order offences and false imprisonment.

The suspects have been released on bail pending further investigation, and West Yorkshire Police have used the arrests to remind self-styled vigilantes to leave the job of confronting suspected abusers to them.

The force said protecting children from abuse was a "top priority" and that any concerns about "illegal internet activity of potential child abusers" should be reported.

"We are also concerned about the activities of online child abuse activist groups and their exposure activity in confronting persons they have identified," said a spokesman.

"We urge members of such exposure groups not to carry out this activity and instead to report suspected offences."

Increased numbers of paedophile hunters have been operating across the UK in recent years, and senior officers have repeatedly said they have have serious concerns about their activities.

Despite police warnings, last year Sky News found that different groups based all over the country were joining forces to form their own national federation in a bid to work more responsibly with law and order.

Sky News was given exclusive access to follow several teams from the Midlands and the north of England, who banded together to track down and confront a suspected sex offender in Birmingham.

Volunteers from four of the groups acted as decoys, posing as underage girls online to gather evidence on the man, who allegedly made suggestions of a sexual nature and sent explicit photos and videos to the decoys.

Police have said the confrontations that often follow these sting operations can sometimes turn violent, and several of those to have been confronted by paedophile hunting groups have gone on to take their own lives.

West Yorkshire Police said the arrests made on Monday related to alleged offences in the Wakefield area on 11 August and in Leeds on 13 January.