Belfast Telegraph

All paedophile hunting groups in Northern Ireland have halted activities- court told

By Alan Erwin

All self-styled paedophile-hunting groups in Northern Ireland have halted their activities, the High Court was told.

A judge was told they ceased within the last week amid ongoing police investigations into their operations.

The disclosure came as bail was granted to a 24-year-old man accused of acting as a decoy to lure one target into a meeting then broadcast live online.

Prosecutors claimed Caolan Murray was part of a group who held the man and threatened to out him during an encounter viewed on Facebook by up to 5,000 people.

Murray, of Mark Court in Lurgan, Co Armagh, also allegedly brandished a laser-guided crossbow in a related incident.

He faces charges of false imprisonment, attempted intimidation, common assault and possession of an offensive weapon.

A Crown lawyer said Murray is accused of participating in a sting operation against the injured party on January 18.

"He posed as a decoy and arranged to meet this person," the barrister contended.

The man went to an agreed location where he was allegedly held against his will and accused of having arranged to meet a 14-year-old for sexual purposes.

Murray was arrested after a further online posting on February 22 where he allegedly referred to his role in the earlier incident.

According to the prosecution he also went to the injured party's home that day armed with a crossbow.

It was claimed the weapon was fired at that confrontation - despite no bolt being loaded onto it.

Lord Justice Treacy was told police believe the incident may be linked to a grudge between  the two families.

During the hearing the judge asked what steps are being taken by law enforcement agencies to close down any so-called paedophile-hunting.

Counsel replied: "As of last week, as far as police are aware, all of these groups have desisted in their activities."

Previously there had been up to eight sting operations taking place each week, the court heard.

But following a series of arrests and ongoing investigations they were said to have come to a halt.

Pressed for confirmation on the situation and reasons behind it, the prosecutor added: "Police think the action taken against them so far has resulted in a message being sent out, and others desisting in their activities."

Granting bail under tight conditions, the judge stressed he would probably have refused the application if police had opposed Murray's release.

He ordered him to have no contact with the injured party, his family, or anyone previously confronted about alleged sexual offending.

Murray was also banned from using social media, online dating apps and websites, and directed to cease any activities associated with paedophile-hunting groups. ends

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