A self-appointed moral guardian who set up a Facebook page to name and shame convicted child sex offenders has a string of convictions for indecency himself.
'Paedophile hunter' Joseph McCloskey (39) has been exposed as a career criminal with a total of 96 previous convictions, including four for indecency, as well as a host of others for drugs - including supplying Class A drugs - public order and road traffic offences.
The Limavady man's 23-year criminal career emerged yesterday when he appeared at Londonderry Magistrates Court charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm in the city centre on September 20 last year. He pleaded guilty to the assault and was released on bail, and will be sentenced on June 12.
McCloskey's record of offending averages four convictions a year.
He was at the centre of a legal storm earlier this year when he and social media giant Facebook were successfully sued by a sex offender who had been identified on a page, Keeping Our Kids Safe From Predators 2, operated by McCloskey.
The courtroom victory provoked a storm of outrage on McCloskey's behalf after the exposed paedophile was awarded damages. Mr Justice Stephens said that McCloskey's Facebook site "was an attempt to hunt a sex offender, to drive him from his home and to expose him to vilification".
The child abuser, identified in court only as 'CG', claimed harassment, violation of his right to privacy and breaches of the Data Protection Act against Facebook and McCloskey after his photograph and details appeared on the site in 2013.
A string of abusive comments and information on his location appeared. One user called for CG to be hanged, while others advocated shooting or castrating him.
One of the posts stated: "I would tie him to a tree and put a blowtorch where he wouldn't want it."
The abuser claimed his fear of violence being inflicted on him was heightened by one of those posting on the page being a former UDA commander who forced him to flee in a past attack on his home.
In evidence, CG also claimed he has been 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.
"He (McCloskey) took pride in driving an individual out of his home," Mr Justice Stephens said, and "knowingly encourages harassment of sex offenders by other individuals by the comments he makes and by the aim and purpose of the profile/page."
Both Facebook and Mr McCloskey were held liable for misuse of private information, with a further finding against the page operator for unlawful harassment.
The judge awarded £20,000 damages against McCloskey and Facebook, with McCloskey being liable for £15,000 of that sum.
Both McCloskey and Facebook are appealing against the ruling.In a further twist, the child abuser who successfully sued McCloskey and Facebook was himself then sued by two of his victims in a bid to secure compensation for abuse they suffered.
The abuse victims' lawyers secured a High Court injunction halting any payout to the sex offender following his landmark action against the social networking giant.
Lawyer Michael Redmond, of Doris & MacMahon Solicitors, acted for one of the victims.
He said: "Our client was extremely concerned and annoyed on hearing that the person who had been convicted of abuse was due to receive a significant amount of compensation."
Experts say it's almost impossible to check the bona fides of anyone operating a Facebook page,.
According to social media expert Dr Kevin Curran, Reader in Computer Science at Ulster University, there is nothing to stop anyone setting themselves up as an online vigilante on Facebook - no matter how shady their past.
"It's an open door, really," Dr Curran said. "A Facebook page can be set up by anyone at all. There are no barriers."