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'Vigilante attack' victim jailed

Published 12/05/2015

Andrew O'Neill has been jailed for 12 months.
Andrew O'Neill has been jailed for 12 months.

A man attacked and filmed by alleged vigilante paedophile hunters has been jailed for 12 months.

Andrew O'Neill, 25, was beaten up in public after believing he was going to meet a 14-year-old girl he had groomed online.

He had made contact on a dating website with a "girl" called Alex.

But after booking a hotel room and turning up to meet her in Wigan town centre on April 18 he was confronted by a number of men and attacked.

Concerned shoppers witnessed the assault as O'Neill was head-butted and lost two front teeth. Other members of the group filmed the incident.

He escaped the attack and went to the police to report the assault.

The video was then posted on Facebook with the tag "NWI Nonce Busters" - believed to be a reference to right-wing group the North West Infidels. The video has since been taken down.

O'Neill, formerly of Castlehey, Skelmersdale, was subsequently charged by police and later admitted an offence of attempting to meet a girl under 16 following grooming.

He was sentenced today at Liverpool Crown Court where he was also ordered to sign the Sex Offender Register for 10 years.

Detective Inspector Martin Reddington, of Greater Manchester Police, said: "O'Neill was targeted because he had illegally arranged to meet up with an underage girl online.

"We do not condone vigilante action; it is dangerous and anyone with concerns about grooming should always report it to police.

"Grooming and arranging to meet up with children you have met over the internet is a criminal offence and if you are caught doing this you will be arrested and prosecuted."

A 25-year-old man from Wigan was arrested last month on suspicion of assault and blackmail in connection with the attack on O'Neill.

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