Community Backlash & Vigilantes

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Community Backlash

Following media reporting of your name and address, or exposure online by vigilantes (see below), you may find yourself and your family vulnerable to community backlash.

  • In circumstances where threats are made about you or your family, you should report this to the police. If any criminal act has been committed against you or your family, you should report this to the police. Criminal acts include damage to property, threats of violence or acts of violence, arson, graffiti, to name a few. 
  • Online threats can be very distressing as can online harassment and you may wish to report such incidents to police. 
  • Remember that there is legislation around hate crimes, so if you feel that someone’s actions are motivated on the basis of your race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity, you should definitely report it because it could be considered a hate crime. 

“Current hate crime legislation allows any existing offence to be aggravated by prejudice in respect of one or more of the characteristics of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity. There are also existing standalone hate crime offences of stirring up racial hatred and of racially aggravated harassment.”

Source: Hate crime - Crime prevention - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

A table with examples of appropriate language use


There are groups of individuals who target adults who they believe to be a risk to children online. These cyber vigilantes do not work for the police or child protection agencies. 

They are members of the general public taking matters into their own hands. These groups of online vigilantes claim to be motivated by a goal of protecting children from abuse. 

They say that they feel compelled to hunt adults who might be a risk to children because the police are not doing enough to protect children.

There are many of these groups operating online.

If you have been affected by a ‘vigilante sting’ it can be extremely distressing, and it can bring immediate online exposure to you and your family members, thus compromising your safety and the safety of members of your household, including children. 

Where the videos of the ‘sting’ remain online, you and members of your household, including children, may continue to experience feelings of fear around the threat of community response.

There is no direct law against the operation of vigilante groups, but some of the techniques that could potentially be used during 'snares' could be crossing the legal line.

For example, if the vigilante ‘hunters’ confront the people they have caught and falsely imprison them, this is a criminal offence. Kidnapping, battery, affray and assault are all criminal offences. 

Adapted from: Stuart Miller

A table showing the notification periods for the various sentence types. Prison sentence of 30 months or more (including life), Indefinite. Order for lifelong restriction, Indefinite. Admission to a hospital subject to a restriction order, Indefinite. Prison sentence of more than 6 months but less than 30 months, 10 years. Prison sentence of 6 months or less, 7 years. Admission to a hospital without a restriction order, 7 years. Community payback order with an offender supervision requirement, The length of the offender supervision requirement. Any other sentence (e.g. a fine or admonition), 5 years.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Report any threats and incidents to police so that these can be logged.
  • Deactivate your social media accounts so that you do not have an active online presence. 
  • Remove any personal details about you or your family from online accounts.
  • Make sure that you protect your home. Police Scotland provide general advice around home safety.
  • Where personal details and articles exist online about you, and they are causing distress or provoking harassment of you and your family, you could consult with an online reputation management company.
  • Once your conviction is spent, in some circumstances there are ways to have links to any videos and articles removed from Google and other search engines. If inaccurate information exists online and you are able to demonstrate that the information is inaccurate, you may be able to apply to have this removed before your conviction is spent. 
  • Consult with your GP if you are experiencing distress, anxiety or depression.

Last updated:
February 24, 2024
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