An Angus paedophile was snared in an online sting operation which triggered a major police response and led to the arrests of several members of an internet vigilante group.
William Rennie has been placed on the sex offenders’ register after admitting sending sickening messages and images to what he believed were four schoolgirls, aged between 12 and 15.
The “youngsters” were actually adult members of Wolf Pack Hunters UK, a self-styled paedophile hunting gang.
An angry mob descended on Rennie’s home in Forfar’s Old Halkerton Road in August 2018, after several weeks of exchanging messages.
The Glasgow-based group, led by Gordon Buchan and his teenage son Jay, arrived outside the flat wearing hoods and facemasks and bellowed obscenities at Rennie and others inside the property.
The onslaught was broadcast by the group live on social media.
‘Integrity test online’
Rennie, 29, appeared at Perth Sheriff Court this week and admitted four charges of attempting to send written sexual communications and images to five adults, posing as girls aged 14, 12, 13 and 15, “for the purposes of obtaining sexual gratification, or of humiliating, distressing or alarming them”.
He sent out messages and photos from his home and from the town’s Queen’s Hotel between July 1 and August 11, 2018.
Deferring sentence for background reports, Sheriff Alastair Brown questioned the methods of the Wolf Pack group and suggested Rennie may not be a threat to the community.
“Although I haven’t yet heard the facts of this particular matter, there are a number of difficulties with these types of cases,” he said.
“People who have nothing to do with the police force create an integrity test online.
“But it is not clear if the person that is brought before the court in these types of cases is necessarily a real threat to anyone.
“They may be but they might not be.”
He said: “I note that he (Rennie) has not pled guilty to making arrangements to meet anyone.”
Police were called when the Wolf Pack gang flocked to Forfar on the evening of August 15.
Buchan and his son were among six people who were arrested during the police operation which lasted several hours.
Buchan later appeared in the dock at Forfar Sheriff Court admitted a breach of the peace.
He was banned from taking part in vigilante activities for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
The Wolf Pack operation also sparked a political row, with local Conservative MSP Bill Bowman calling for crunch talks with police chiefs over what he saw as a sudden rise in vigilante operations in the Angus area.
He said at the time: “There is a right way to help the police catch criminals.”