A group of paedophile hunters were branded “Machiavellian” by a barrister defending a father of four who has admitted grooming and then trying to meet a 13-year-old girl.
Dark Justice set up a fake profile of a girl called Jessie on an online chat site and swapped messages with 47-year-old Joseph Henderson, of Wilkie Loan, North Lanarkshire, after he contacted the teenager.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that in conversations spread over four weeks, Henderson said the girl was “beautiful” and “hot”, and that he wanted to kiss and cuddle her.
Gavin Doig, prosecuting, said Henderson wrote to the fake profile saying he wanted to kiss her “neck, shoulders and tummy button”.
But Mr Doig said Henderson stated he was prepared to wait until the girl was ready to take things further.
The prosecution said Dark Justice’s responses were “tempting Mr Henderson to express intentions to go further than he himself is expressing an interest in doing”.
Henderson drove to Newcastle, thinking he would meet the 13-year-old, but instead he was met by police and arrested.
He admitted attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming.
Jamie Adams, defending, said Henderson was at a low ebb following the break-up of his marriage and a subsequent relationship, and he was drinking heavily and taking cocaine.
The barrister said Henderson visited the chat site, which was for adults, “looking for company and solace”.
Mr Adams said Dark Justice was a “vigilante organisation”, adding: “One can understand the purpose but it is sometimes Machiavellian in the way it acts.”
He said his client was encouraged “to say more than he wants to say”.
In his sentencing remarks, Recorder Euan Duff said the fictitious profile had made “rather inviting remarks” to the defendant.
“However, it is undoubtedly a serious offence,” the judge said.
Henderson was handed a three-year community order with rehabilitation requirements.
The judge said: “I hope you will never bother a court again. I am perfectly sure you will learn from this unfortunate experience.”
Henderson must register as a sex offender for five years.
Outside court Dark Justice said: “We don’t entrap people. It was his choice to come to Newcastle.
“Look at all the investigations we have carried out. If we were that dishonest, why didn’t he plead not guilty?”
Dark Justice have secured almost 40 convictions in the two years they have operated.