herald

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Dublin man quizzed over grooming 'girl' (11) after sting by paedo hunters

It is believed the man 'voluntarily' made a statement and handed his phone to gardai
It is believed the man 'voluntarily' made a statement and handed his phone to gardai

A Dublin man is being investigated by gardai for attempting to groom an 11-year-old child after he was caught in a sting operation by a vigilante group.

The man (41), from Artane, was quizzed for two hours at Blanchardstown Garda Station and handed his phone over to gardai.

It is understood he had seven social media profiles.

The vigilante group is also understood to have handed over at least one device as part of the investigation.

It comes after a so-called citizen's arrest by four members of vigilante group Justice Reborn.

Protect

The incident took place at a shopping centre car park in Blanchardstown at around 11pm on Sunday.

It is claimed that the man had been under the impression that he had been in contact with a young girl, but had actually been in conversation with a woman from the group.

The group describes itself as a dedicated team that aims to educate and protect children from the dangers of social media and online grooming.

The video of the confrontation was posted online. When confronted by the group, the man admitted that he had intended on meeting the girl.

He arrived to meet the girl in a car. Asked what his plans with the girl were, he said it was "just to say hello to her".

"There was no sex, no nothing at all," he added.

Asked if he wanted to kiss the girl, he said "no".

"I have nieces and nephews, why would I do that?" he said.

He also denied speaking to any other girls, but subsequently admitted to speaking to another 14-year-old. This girl was also a fictitious online profile set up by the vigilante group.

The female member of Justice Reborn who spoke to him in the video said she came out to meet him after he allegedly intended on meeting the girls after school.

"Our children are going back to school tomorrow," she said.

Asked if he wanted to meet both the 11-year-old and 14-year-old after school, he said "yes".

He said he had never turned up at a school before.

Senior sources say the man in question "voluntarily" made a statement and handed his mobile phone to gardai.

A file is now being prepared for the DPP. It is understood the man had no previous convictions for sexual offences.

A garda spokesman confirmed an incident in Blanchardstown on Sunday, but said no arrests were made and enquiries were ongoing.

The spokesman said that gardai were concerned by the work of such vigilante groups.

He said the priority of gardai at all times is the safety of children and to use lawful means in order to prosecute crimes that jeopardise the safety of children.

However, gardai do not comment specifically on the activities of such groups in Ireland.

"The actions by such groups are a cause of concern for An Garda Siochana and for other police services," he said.

Confrontation

"The activity engaged in and the manner of confrontation between such groups and their targets has the potential for violence and could result in harm to persons present.

"In addition, there are also concerns over the legality of the actions of such groups operating in Ireland.

"Finally, the manner in which such groups operate and how they interact with their chosen targets prior to and during the arranged meeting has the potential to affect future criminal proceedings.

"It is An Garda Siochana's primary role to investigate crime and enforce enacted legislation."

The spokesman also urged anyone with information in relation to the potential sexual exploitation of children to report it to gardai.

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