STINSON Hunter wants to get a couple of things straight. He hates the title paedophile hunter — and he is not a vigilante.

For the record, a vigilante is a member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because the legal agencies are thought to be inadequate.

Stinson, 33, who now lives “somewhere between Blackburn and Preston”, argues that he is not working against the authorities. He passes information he receives over to the police.

“What they do with it is their business,” he said.

The relationship has been a fraught one.

Neither is he a paedophile hunter — the title given to his globally-acclaimed Bafta-winning Channel 4 documentary which aired last year.

Paedophilia is a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent is sexually attracted to prepubescent children, aged 11 or younger. He cites Fred West, Gary Glitter, Ian Huntley and Jimmy Savile as examples. And those are not the sort of people he targets, although he has caught more than one who fits the profile.

Sipping on a McDonald’s banana milkshake in the Lancashire Telegraph offices he puts the record straight. “I target the predators and the opportunists who want sex with underage teens,” he said.

“I do not care what happens to them when I have handed over the information to the police. My aim is to raise awareness, to educate parents, to make the government and child charities do something about it. In this social-media society we have neglected online safety and that needs to change.”

Stinson — his former name is Kieren Parsons — has been instrumental in securing the convictions of four men with local connections; 49-year-old Accrington teacher David Simpson, 25-year-old Kristian Kirk, of Oswaldtwistle, married father-of-two Stephen Thomson, 57, who was caught arranging a meeting with a 14-year-old in Blackburn, and in-court-this-week 53-year-old Karl Grogan, who arrived at a Blackburn car park expecting to meet a 14-year-old girl for sexual purposes.

And they are just the tip of the iceberg because Blackburn has many such predators, according to Stinson, and they are keener here than in other areas. He reels off the names of four other local stings.

“What I put online on my website is not all of it,” he said. The police get intel on people who have not turned up but have still committed a criminal offence. I will tell you what is bad about Blackburn — the speed at which it escalates and how quickly they want to turn up to meet. Most of the people I have caught have turned up in half a day whereas others take longer time. But the problem is everywhere. I have done a few local stings around here lately but they seem a lot more eager.

“People misunderstand me. I am not here to get people locked up — that is the police’s job. That is why I am not a vigilante. I am doing it to get people talking. I am showing you there is a problem. I am not going to stop until the government recognises that there is an issue and does something about it.”

Online police censorship is not the way forward, in his opinion.

He said: “But if you are signing up to sites that you need to be 18 for, then I believe you should provide some form of verification, a phone number, debit card or driving licence, so if someone makes a complaint about that person or something untoward is happening they have the info to hand over to the police. It would also stop kids being able to access certain things that they are not mature enough to handle.

“It is about lack of education. I am not the guy to tell you how to solve the problems. The government should be doing that. I want to move into education because parents and kids need to know about the dangers.

“We have neglected online safety. Name me one charity that has done an online safety campaign that has been memorable or has hit home. How much money does the NSPCC get? None of these charities do anything. I cannot give you the answers. I am one guy and people expect me to solve all the problems — but I am the one mouthing off about it and raising awareness. That is the bare bones of what I am about.”

Stinson is undoubtedly a complex person. Expelled from three schools and put into care at 14, he was significantly affected by the gang rape of a friend of the same age who was being groomed.

Stinson went to prison for almost seven years at 17 for an arson attack on his former primary school — empty at the time — in the Midlands. He also served a short prison sentence for common assault six years ago. It is easy to make assumptions about him based on his past — but whatever he did wrong back then he wants to pay back now.

He has battled depression, drink and drugs but insists he has overcome them all. After the airing of last year’s documentary he hit an all-time low and was on the verge of committing suicide. Concern for the care of his beloved pet dog stopped him going through with it.

Everyone wonders why Stinson Hunter does what he does, ensnaring perverts who respond to his online fake profiles.

He has put himself in serious danger — in 2013 he was run over and badly injured by the subject of one of his stings. A Twitter troll also threatened to rape his 18-month-old son, to his ex-partner.

Nobody wants children to be abused but few are prepared to take such risks. So I asked him a direct question: “Were you sexually abused as a child?”

He told me it is none of my business. It has no relevance to what he does.

“That is nothing to do with anybody really,” he said.

“I know why people ask but it is not something I am going to answer. People can make up their own mind but they would be wrong. It is a bit insensitive to ask because if someone has been abused, you can bring back that issue. It is like asking what sexuality you are — it is no-one’s business. That is why I avoid that question. Whatever may or may not have happened in my childhood has nothing to do with what I am doing now.

“I found an issue online by doing an experiment and instead of being an armchair activist I got off my backside and did something about it. I am just trying to put good back into the world, for the bad that I put in with my criminal lifestyle.

“I do not blame my past for anything I have done. I made the decision to do it. I have done stuff because I could but it was always negative. But I am doing this now because I can and it is positive. I do not blame my dad for leaving home and me not seeing him. I do not blame anybody for anything — we all make our own decisions.

“I have made rash decisions because I was trying to find myself and I thought it was my role in life to be the bad boy. It felt comfortable and normal with everyone hating me. So I only blame myself.”

Although he vows not to stop what he is doing until the government takes action, he has plenty of advice for parents about online safety for kids.

He said: “People cannot take me for granted. I cannot protect everyone’s kids. Parents need to start being proactive. Kids need to be outside playing — it is more dangerous being inside on the internet.

“If you are going to give your kid a smartphone, then you need to have access to their ID and passwords, and they should have to ask you if they want to accept a friend. I understand that kids want a bit of privacy but they are kids and they are under your roof.

“Older ones will be more difficult. But instead of letting kids do the controlling, parents needs to take charge. You are paying for the internet, so they need to do what you say and abide by your rules. If the kids are annoyed, so what? Take their phone off them.”