Kent

Paedophile jailed after vigilantes set Bluewater trap

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Media captionVigilante group The Hunted One filmed its meeting with McKenna

A man confronted by vigilantes after arranging to meet an 11-year-old girl for sex has been jailed for five years.

Mark McKenna, 38, from Northfleet, in Kent, pleaded guilty to arranging the commission of a child sex offence at Maidstone Crown Court last month.

He was arrested near a car park at the Bluewater shopping centre in August.

He had thought he was meeting the girl after sending her explicit messages online, but in fact had been talking to the vigilante group, The Hunted One.

The group had tipped off Kent Police and filmed his arrest after creating a fake Instagram account.

It describes itself as "a secret organisation of dedicated parents, pro-actively seeking out and exposing online groomers, sexual predators and paedophiles".

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During a series of exchanges over three-and-a-half weeks with the fictitious girl, McKenna sent explicit photos, a video and countless messages.

In one, he asked: "Can you kiss?"

When she replied yes, he said: "What else can you do?"

The court heard it was made clear from the outset she was 11 years old.

Image copyright The Hunted One
Image caption Mark McKenna was arrested near a car park at the Bluewater shopping centre in August

McKenna arranged to meet the girl at Bluewater on 6 August as his "girlfriend was away", sending her a photo of an unopened packet of condoms with the message "I have them".

He told her: "You do know I'm 38?

"You will have to be my daughter for the day," adding that she should not tell anyone in case he got in trouble with the police.

However, when he arrived at the shopping centre he was confronted by members of the vigilante group.

Sentencing, Judge Philip Statman described McKenna's behaviour as "abhorrent".

"You have succeeded in destroying your family," he said.

The judge told the court he was aware of how the case had unfolded, saying: "Matters of this kind ought properly to be left to the appropriate investigating police officers who are there to safeguard the interests of the community as a whole."

McKenna was placed on the sex offenders' register for life.

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