Sheffield judge slams vigilantes who snared pervert
A Sheffield judge has slammed a group of paedophile hunters who confronted a pervert they snared through online chat with a fake 13-year-old “girl.”
Darren Smith began Facebook messaging "Chloe" on January 7, 2018, unaware the girl was in reality a decoy set up by Michelle Tiernan, of the vigilante group Predator Exposure, two months earlier.
After a week of "innocuous conversation," Smith turned the conversation to sexual matters, prosecutor Amanda Johnson told Sheffield Crown Court, on Friday.
He asked "Chloe" if she wanted to meet up and suggested trips to the cinema and Cadbury World, before asking if he could send the night with her while her "grandmother" was away.
"The defendant asked her about her breasts and asked for photographs," Ms Johnson said. "She claimed that her phone was broken and he urged her to borrow one from a friend.
"He urged her to allow him to perform oral sex on her."
They arranged to meet in Cadbury World, on January 27, last year, but Smith didn't turn up.
Instead, members of Predator Exposure confronted him at his home in Barnsley, and broadcast it on social media. The court heard Smith and his family, including his elderly mother, were subjected to threats, and Smith himself was "seriously assaulted" afterwards.
The Recorder of Sheffield Judge Jeremy Richardson QC described the group's conduct as "uncivilised" and "deplorable."
"This should have been handed over to the police,” he said. “The vigilante group aren't properly trained. They don't always understand the law."
Smith, 44, of Priestley Avenue, changed his plea to guilty after hearing a day of evidence at his trial on December 12, last year.
The court heard he was "socially isolated" and led "an unhappy life."
A two-year community order was imposed, with 35 sessions of a sex offenders' treatment programme, 30 rehabiilitation days and 150 hours of unpaid work.
A Sexual Harm Prevention Order was made for five years.
The judge told Smith: "It there's one step out of line there will be no mercy. You will go to prison.
"The long term reformation of you is crucial to the protection of society and of young people in particular."