A VIGILANTE group which was criticised by a judge following the collapse of a trial has decided to stop ‘paedophile hunting.’

H Division was started by David Poole to – in his words – “protect teenagers from online grooming” by pretending to be a teenager on online dating websites.

The Hereford father gained praise from people as far away as Australia for his ‘live sting’ Facebook videos while others criticised the tactics used by his vigilante group.

Mr Poole was the main prosecution witness in the trial of Adnan Khalid at Cardiff Crown Court last week, who was accused of attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming.

Khalid had allegedly been ‘stung’ by the vigilante group in April before being arrested by police.

However, Mr Poole was accused of turning up to the second day of the trial four hours late and giving “inaccurate” and “misleading” accounts to a jury.

Judge Thomas Crowther QC said: “This case underlines why criminal investigations should be conducted carefully, meticulously, and by those who are trained and qualified to do so.”

He later discharged the jury, entered a formal not guilty verdict, and instructed the defendant to leave the dock.

Following the case a post on the H Division Facebook page denied that Mr Poole turned up four hours late and explained the situation.

It added: “We have four outstanding cases and then we are knocking it on the head for a while!

“Travelling, paying for it all, sleepless nights, disgusting things you wouldn’t imagine getting sent and we are basically made out to be these liars. It’s disgusting!”

After the case a NSPCC spokesman said: “While we have every sympathy for people concerned about suspected abusers, we believe that identifying offenders and investigating crimes is best left to the police.

“When members of the public take the law into their own hands it can run the risk of driving offenders underground, jeopardise on-going police work and the legal process or result in innocent people being harassed – all of which may put more children at risk.

“Protecting children from harm is the priority and investigating suspects is best done by the proper authorities.”

Anyone with concerns about children, or adults who pose a threat to them, can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

A CPS spokesman said: “The CPS believes that vigilante activity, whilst often well intentioned, has the potential to disrupt legitimate covert law enforcement activities.”