February 2018

Paedophile hunters Dark Justice should be ‘congratulated but not encouraged’ judge warns

Paedophile hunters Dark Justice should be “congratulated but not encouraged” as a vulnerable man pleaded guilty to a sex offence following a sting by the group, a judge warned.

Sean Mason, of Frank Street, Wallsend, admitted attempting to engage in sexual communications with a child.

The 42-year-old had been having explicit conversations with sexual innuendo on Whatsapp with what he believed was a 15-year-old girl called Katie.

But it was a decoy by Dark Justice, who later confronted Mason on Christmas Eve at a social club after he backed out of meeting up with the supposed teenager.

Recorder Jeremy Barnett described the actions of Dark Justice as a “honeypot” and handed a community order to Mason.

He said: “My approach is to balance the interests of the group, who clearly took the lead here and done things they believe the police should be doing, and the wider public interest in the case.”

He added: “I think that Dark Justice, although I don’t like the name, have done a commendable job here.

“I am concerned there are maybe breaches of data protection but I choose to ignore that for this instance as they come from a position that is to be congratulated, not celebrated, but congratulated.”

Mason set up a profile on the social media platform Qeep using his real name, age and photographs and struck up an online conversation with what he believed was a 15-year-old girl.

Although he arranged to meet the fictional teenager on December 21, Mason backed out.

Sentencing Mason to a two-year community order, including 30 days of rehabilitation work, Recorder Barnett said: “What you did what wrong, it was a ham-fisted attempted at grooming.

“People now know what you have been getting up to in your spare time, that must severely limit your social life and job opportunities.”

Mason was ordered to pay an £85 victim surcharge. He was also given a sexual harm prevention order banning him from possessing computers.