A group of self-styled paedophile hunters from the Greenwich borough have begun posing as underage girls online to try to catch child sex offenders across London.

Demolition worker Charlie Gaines, 20, and his friends formed the group Unknown TV around three weeks ago to attempt to expose paedophiles in the capital.

The group set up fake social media profiles for underage girls and make their age clear to anyone who approaches them and asks for a meeting.

If a meet is arranged, Gaines and his associates hand over any evidence to the police before ambushing the alleged paedophile in public, filming the results and posting it online.

Hunter groups have been active across the UK for some time, and have led to several convictions, but police want it to stop.

Met Police say individuals taking this type of action to target suspected paedophiles cannot assess risks to victims and their families, and could jeopardise ongoing investigations.

Mr Gaines, of Shooters Hill Road, told News Shopper: "I am not against the police but they could do more.

"Instead of beating these people up, we thought why don’t we help the police get them arrested?

"We don’t get violent. We don’t threaten them.

"The police are saying we are taking the law into our own hands but we pass our information to them.

"I have got to try and get these sex offenders off the streets."

Left to right: Kev, Jordan Clarke, Charlie Gaines and Chris Harris who are using social media to try to catch suspected paedophiles in London

Three men, from Mottingham, Bromley and Woolwich, have been arrested and charged following stings carried out by the group in the last three weeks.

But this form of evidence gathering can lead to complications over whether it has been collected through entrapment.

Unknown TV deny any suggestion that they are entrapping the suspected paedophiles.

Mr Gaines said: "If they bite, that is not my fault.

"We don’t entrap them. It’s not entrapment."

An example of Facebook messages exchanged between a suspected paedophile and an Unknown TV fake social media profile

A Met Police spokesman said it does not support activities by individuals to target suspected paedophiles.

He said: "This type of action could jeopardise or interfere with ongoing investigations, and our advice to anyone who has information about suspected child sexual abuse - online or otherwise - is to contact police so we can investigate and, where possible, bring people to justice.

"Revealing the identity of a potential suspect could give them the opportunity to destroy evidence before police become involved.

"It could also lead to individuals taking action in an attempt to evade police.

"This can divert significant policing resources which would be better invested in investigating and, where there is evidence, prosecuting individuals.

"Most importantly, those undertaking this type of activity cannot fully assess any risk associated to victims and their families."

Met Police advise anyone who has concerns about online grooming to report it to their local police, to The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre at ceop.police.uk, or to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Anyone who thinks a child is at immediate risk of harm is asked to call 999.