I will happily concede I can be somewhat opinionated – that comes with the job description of an opinion column.

More often than not, I know which side of an issue my sympathies lie.

But sometimes I come across something that really has me in a quandary.

Last month I read a news report on the BBC website about so-called paedophile hunters.

These are online groups who use what they call ‘decoys’ to pose as underage children and wait to be contacted by adults.

The decoys then strike up a private conversation with these adults and identify those attempting to groom young people.

Individuals are then physically tracked down by the paedophile hunter groups with the confrontation often streamed live on social media.

The final stage of the process is to call the police – but only after the confrontation in the street.

There are more than 100 of these groups across the country and recently one of them in the north west tracked down a man who they confronted in Northwich, streaming it on Facebook Live.

And there is some indication the work of the paedophile hunter groups is having an impact.

Evidence provided by these groups was used to charge suspects in at least 150 cases last year, according to a BBC investigation.

A Freedom of Information request, sent to every police force in England and Wales, showed a seven-fold increase in the use of such evidence from 2015.

So is it a good thing these groups are out there, using their ‘decoys’ to snare potential paedophiles?

On the face of it, I suppose you could say it is.

It could be argued they are providing additional ‘boots on the ground’ the police simply don’t have.

But I have serious reservations – and so do the police.

Police have warned the groups’ actions may interfere with surveillance operations and ‘evidence’ they gather may be illegally obtained and therefore excluded from a prosecution.

The BBC reports Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson, of West Yorkshire Police, who urged those who are involved in paedophile hunter groups to bring them evidence but to then ‘let us deal with it’.

She said: “It does present significant risks when these groups confront individuals, first of all for themselves – these are often very high-octane, emotional situations.

“There’s significant risk involved for the individuals that they are confronting, not least because it might sometimes be an innocent member of the public or it might actually disrupt a wider undercover policing investigation that we’ve got ongoing.”

On a personal level, I’m also more than a little concerned about the lynch mob vigilante overtones of this kind of action. Who is policing these groups? Can anyone with a computer join up?

And why is the end game the live-streamed confrontation in the street?

If the aim of these groups is to track down and remove paedophiles from our streets, surely this can be achieved by collecting and collating evidence and handing it over to the police.

In January a former police chief told the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse that masquerading as a child online should become a criminal offence.

This would apply equally to potential paedophiles and would help snare predators.

But it would also equally apply to the vigilante paedophile hunters, effectively making their ‘decoys’ illegal as well.

Patently, this is a complex and serious issue and I would be really interested to know what you think.

By our columnist The Fly in the Ointment