Self-styled 'paedophile hunters' found guilty of assault
Two self-appointed so-called paedophile catchers who received suspended prison sentences for intimidating a journalist, have been found guilty of assaults and disorderly behaviour during 'sting operations'.
Richard Brian Curtis (33), of Albert Road, Carrickfergus, and Tim Heron (29), of Cloverhill Vale, Bangor, denied charges of unlawful assault, and using disorderly behaviour at Glengall Street, Belfast, on January 16 2018. They also denied unlawfully assaulting three people, and using disorderly behaviour at Inn Road, Ballymacateer, Dollingstown, on February 4, 2018.
Curtis also denied charges he assaulted an individual on November 23, 2017, and that he used disorderly behaviour at Kenlis Street, Banbridge, on January 13, 2018 during two other vigilante sting operations.
Both received three years' suspended imprisonment earlier this year, for disorderly behaviour and obstructing a road in South Belfast, for attempting to intimidate BBC journalist Kevin Magee in February 2018.
They followed Mr Magee, who had previously interviewed another member of their group for a television documentary.
At Laganside Magistrates Court yesterday, the court heard the so-called 'predator catchers' created fake profiles on dating websites described as 'decoys' to find their targets, and suggested meeting places where they could surround them.
In each incident, the group called police and waited until officers arrived. Curtis and Heron did not deny any of the facts of the case, but contested the charges on the basis they were making citizen's arrests.
The prosecutor reminded the court that a citizen's or summary arrest required the criteria that there were 'reasonable grounds for the necessity' for one, and that it was 'not reasonably practicable for police to make the arrest' at the time.
Judge Brady agreed they did not show the requirements for a citizen's arrest, and added: "This is a civilised society, we cannot have vigilante groups doing this."
She convicted both men on all counts.
The case was adjourned to July 5 for sentence-specific probation reports, with both men facing a maximum of 12 months' imprisonment.