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Vigilante victim admits grooming

Published 20/04/2015

O'Neill will be sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court
O'Neill will be sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court

A man attacked and filmed by alleged vigilante paedophile hunters has admitted in court that he groomed an under-age girl.

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

He had made contact on a dating website with a "girl" called Alex, Wigan Magistrates' Court heard.

But after booking a hotel room and turning up to meet the girl in Wigan on Saturday afternoon, he was confronted by a number of men and attacked.

Concerned shoppers witnessed the assault on Market Place in the town centre 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 charged by police after reporting the assault and admitted an offence of attempting to meet a girl under 16 following grooming, between April 11 and 18 .

He was remanded into custody for his own safety and will appear for sentence at Liverpool Crown Court on May 11.

Nicola Ormerod, prosecuting, said: "The defendant has contacted somebody said to be called 'Alex' on a profile on a dating website.

"General discussions then turn flirty and sexual and she said she is 14.

"There's an arrangement made for the two parties to meet. The defendant has already booked a hotel room and is found in possession of a tube of lubricant.

"It's been a set-up profile from a group. He thought this person was 14 and has arranged to meet for the relevant offence.

"It has had press coverage over the weekend. It is from a particular group who set this up and the defendant has been assaulted."

Andrea Woods, defending, said O'Neill had no previous convictions and co-operated with police.

O'Neill was the second man arrested by police over the weekend following alleged vigilante paedophile stings.

A second man, aged 19, has been released on bail on suspicion of committing a similar offence to O'Neill.

And a 25-year-old man from Wigan was also arrested by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) on suspicion of assault and blackmail.

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