Former 'paedophile hunter' is put on Sex Offenders' Register after being convicted of having indecent child image

Former 'paedophile hunter' is put on Sex Offenders' Register after being convicted of having indecent child image

A MAN who was formerly a member of a so-called 'paedophile hunter' group has been placed on the Sex Offenders' Register after being convicted of having an indecent child image on his mobile phone.

Tim Herron (32), with an address listed as Well Road in Ballywalter but now said to be living in England, had contested the six charges he faced at Newtownards Magistrates Court.

He was charged with one count that he 'made' a Category B indecent photo of a child on a date unknown between January 23, 2018 and February 20, 2018.

He was also charged with five counts of possessing an 'extreme pornographic image' on a date unknown between December 1, 2016 and February 20, 2018.

District Judge Mark Hamill convicted Herron of all the charges.

A prosecutor said on February 19, 2018, police attended the defendant's then home address at Cloverhill Vale in Bangor in a "pre-planned search in relation to the activity of 'paedophile hunters'."

She said an officer seized a phone from the defendant who had been holding the device in his left hand.

She said, Court News NI can report, the phone was examined and images were found.

The defendant told the court that in 2018 he had been part of a 'paedophile hunting group'.

He said the group would set up profiles on dating apps and 'decoys' would be used to lure suspected paedophiles to "stings" and evidence would be sent to police.

The defendant admitted he was one of a number of people previously prosecuted for what a defence lawyer referred to as "crossing the line" with a "BBC reporter" who had been reporting on 'paedophile hunters'.

This week's court heard that in relation to that case police seized Herron's phone in February, 2018.

The defendant said there had been a number of "decoy" phones.

Herron accepted there were images on his own phone but denied he was downloading images for his own gratification.

When asked if the images may have got onto his phone whilst being used, unknown to him, during 'decoy' work by other members of the 'paedophile hunter' group, Herron said he didn't know how the images, he described as "abhorrent," came to be there.

Judge Hamill said the suggestion had been made that material found on the defendant's own personal phone "had nothing to do with him" and "someone unknown," in the "so-called 'paedophile hunter' group, had, for some unknown reason chosen to download child pornography onto the defendant's personal phone as opposed to onto a number of 'decoy' phones that were available".

The judge said such a suggestion was "just unbelievable" and "not remotely credible".

Convicting the defendant on the charges, Judge Hamill added: "This is a mire this man has managed to get himself involved in".

The judge placed the defendant on the Sex Offenders' Register and sentencing was adjourned to June for a pre-sentence report to be prepared.

The defence lawyer said the defendant is now living in England on a "temporary basis" as his "personal safety was at risk".