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Vigilantes targeting Belfast man on child sex chat charges, court told

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Magowan's case is being heard at Belfast Magistrates' Court

Magowan's case is being heard at Belfast Magistrates' Court

Magowan's case is being heard at Belfast Magistrates' Court

A Belfast man accused of trying to meet a child following online sexual chats has been "tortured" out of his home, a court heard today.

Vigilantes behind a suspected sting operation were waiting for 41-year-old Stephen Magowan after the alleged initial contact, his lawyer said.

Magowan is charged with attempted sexual communication with someone believed to be under 16 who used the name 'Luke'.

He faces a further count of attempting to meet a child for the commission of a relevant offence. The charges relate to an alleged incident on June 22 last year.

As Magowan's case came before Belfast Magistrates' Court for the first time, reporting restrictions were imposed to prevent publication of his address.

Defence counsel Joel Lyndsay argued that the prohibition was necessary because of the impact on his client's life.

"He's charged with sexual communication with a child... set up by a vigilante group who were waiting for him," the barrister said.

Mr Lynday claimed Magowan has been subjected to excessive internet postings and social media coverage since the initial alleged attempted encounter.

"He was tortured out of his own home and had to go and live somewhere else," he submitted.

The defendant also had to leave a job where he had worked for up to 20 years, according to counsel.

No issue was taken with Magowan being named, or reporting that he is from the north Belfast area.

But Mr Lyndsay argued that disclosing the address could endanger the accused and others.

Granting the application, District Judge Peter Magill confirmed: "It's sufficient if the facts, such as they are, are in the public domain, along with the defendant's name and the general area."

Magowan was released on continuing bail, with his case adjourned to September 17.

Belfast Telegraph