David Smith, acting for CPS London (North) at Isleworth Crown Court, has prosecuted two men who were part of a larger network of ‘paedophile hunters’ who extorted vulnerable victims whilst masquerading as law enforcement officers. Their victims believed they were communicating with a female child and made arrangements to meet to engage in sexual activity. Once at the meeting point, they were met by Stuart Manning, (a seasoned criminal), pretending to be a police officer, they were shown a fake warrant card, cautioned and told they were under arrest. They were taken home to be searched. At this point Manning suggested that he was open to bribery and that criminal charges could be avoided by engaging in ‘rehabilitation’. The victims were manipulated and extorted once banking information had been revealed to them. Thereafter, victims were falsely imprisoned, threatened, assaulted and blackmailed by Manning, George Robinson and other unidentified men and women. Over £50,000 was obtained in this way from two victims.
A West London man was carried against his will to a wood near Brighton where he was asked to pick a tree from which he would be hanged. He was strangled, beaten and threatened with a ‘Zombie’ knife as he was driven around the south-east of England over the course of several days. An address book was taken and the victim was told that family members would be killed if he did comply with unwarranted demands.
A Hampshire man had his life savings taken, leaving him homeless and destitute.
The men were eventually caught when a victim was taken into a bank and a member of staff realised that something was amiss and called the police.
Both men were convicted of conspiracy to blackmail and conspiracy to falsely imprison a west London man. Manning, as a leading figure in the conspiracy was sentenced to a 15-year extended sentence of imprisonment for conspiracy to falsely imprison and 6 years’ and 6 months’ imprisonment for conspiracy to blackmail the same man. Robinson, a younger less criminally experienced man, was sentence to 8 years’ imprisonment for conspiracy to falsely imprison and 4 years’ imprisonment for conspiracy to blackmail. All sentences were ordered to run concurrently. In relation to the victim from Hampshire, Manning was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for kidnap and 7 years’ imprisonment for blackmail. Both men were also convicted of theft and Manning alone for fraud by false representation.