Belfast Telegraph

Man behind Facebook 'name and shame' paedophile page claims he helped convict sex offenders

The operator of a Facebook page set up to monitor paedophiles has "named and shamed" 400 sex offenders in Northern Ireland, he told the High Court today.

Denying that he is running a witch-hunt, Joe McCloskey also claimed his site has helped secure up to seven convictions.

Mr McCloskey is being sued along with the social networking giant by a child sex abuser in a potentially landmark civil action.

The man, who cannot be named, served a prison sentence for a string of gross indecency and indecent assault offences against a young girl and a teenage boy.

He is seeking damages for misuse of private information, and breaches of the data protection act and his right to freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment.

Proceedings were launched after his photograph and details appeared last year on the Facebook page 'Keeping our kids safe from predators II'.

He alleges that amid abusive comments being posted others were inciting violence against him and trying to find out where he lives.

One user called for him to be hung while others endorsed shooting him.

The man claimed he was then threatened with being thrown off a pier during a fishing trip, hounded out of a cinema and had to use a supermarket trolley to fight off another tormentor.

But Mr McCloskey, who launched the page immediately after another sex offender secured an injunction to have an earlier incarnation shut down, insisted that he included a disclaimer opposing any violence or intimidation.

Giving evidence on day three of the case, he said his motivation for starting up the site had been a rape victim who suffered years of abuse.

"It was just to name and shame sex offenders," he told the court.

Using Google searches to post press reports and photographs from criminal cases, he said other victims had contacted him to tell their stories when there was no newspaper coverage.

"I have 400 sex offenders on my Facebook at the minute, all local," he said.

Asked by his barrister, Barry McKenna, for the reasons behind republishing information, Mr McCloskey replied: "Because there's no system in this country that has the whole lot in one place.

"If somebody wants to know if there's a sex offender living in their local area all they have to do is click on my Facebook page."

The defendant described his work as a community database where contributors are encouraged to post a heart symbol for victims.

He said he now has 25,000 friends on his page - 2,000 of whom have been added since the court action got underway.

Mr Justice Stephens heard, however, that he has also blocked around 3,000 people for posting unacceptable comments.

As the man suing him listened in the public gallery Mr McCloskey claimed threats have been directed at him as well.

"I get phone calls to say they are going to cut my kid's throat, that they are going to get me and they are watching my house," he told the court.

"It's either sex offenders themselves or their families or friends."

Despite this, he insisted the page was not there to incite others.

"It's not a witch-hunt, it's not a hate site; it's for information," he said.

Mr McCloskey claimed he receives up to 50 private mails daily from victims and survivors seeking advice.

Some of them are directed to his Facebook page by police, the court was told.

Asked if anything positive had resulted from this interaction, he replied: "Yes, there's been 30 people who have come forward to the PSNI to make allegations against sex offenders and there's been numerous convictions.

"I don't know the exact amount since I started but I think it's maybe six or seven out of the 30."

Online comments about the plaintiff in the case ranged from descriptions of him as being "vermin" to an "evil satanist b******".

Mr McCloskey accepted he had blocked none of them.

"I felt the crime was totally disgusting and I didn't care what anybody wrote on it," he added.

Since then, however, he claimed to have changed his opinion and "tidied up" the site he has put "thousands of hours into" because of fears it could be shut down.

Setting out how the plaintiff is seeking damages, Mr McKenna questioned whether his client made any money from running a page with 25,000 followers.

"Nothing, not a penny," Mr McCloskey responded.

"I have been offered money but I never took any. I don't think it would be right benefiting from it."

Claiming the page has helped prevent crime, he continued: "Even if sex offenders do go on the site they may look and think what damage it does to people, because it doesn't just go away. It's there for life."

Under cross-examination by Peter Girvan, for the plaintiff, Mr McCloskey confirmed he has twice been banned from Facebook for 30 days because of photographs published.

"If it's not done properly you will get your knuckles rapped," he said.

The case continues.

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