York & North Yorkshire

Leeds-based paedophile hunters group accused of assault

Leeds Crown Court. Image copyright PA
Image caption The six members of the group deny all the charges against them at Leeds Crown Court

A group of paedophile hunters used violence and falsely imprisoned men they suspected of being child sex offenders, a court has heard.

Prosecutors said the Leeds-based group Predator Exposure "overstepped the mark" when they confronted two men on separate occasions.

Leeds Crown Court was told one man was verbally abused, held in a headlock and dragged out of a shop.

Six members of the group deny charges of false imprisonment and assault.

Tom Storey, prosecuting, told the court: "The members of this group, and those working with them, overstepped the mark and went far beyond the bounds within which they should have operated."

Both incidents were live streamed on social media.

The charges

Phillip Hoban, 43, and his son, Jordan McDonald, 19, both from Leeds, are charged with two counts of false imprisonment and one of common assault.

Jordan Plain, 26, from Leeds, and Dean Walls, 52, from Moortown, are each charged with one count of false imprisonment and one of common assault.

Kelly Meadows, 40, from Leeds, is charged with two counts of false imprisonment and Christine James-Roberts, 60, from Leeds, faces one charge of false imprisonment.

The jury heard that the first incident happened in August 2018 when four of the defendants went to the home of a West Yorkshire man who had taken part in online conversations with a member posing as a 14-year-old.

They took the man, who was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and is believed to be on the autistic spectrum, into the back garden of the house and prevented him from leaving, even when he asked to be allowed inside to fetch his medication, the court heard.

Mr Storey said: "It is clear from the footage that [the man] was extremely scared and upset by what was taking place and, at times, he clearly did not understand."

The second incident happened in January 2019 when five of the defendants went to the home of another man in Leeds.

The court heard they chased the man to a nearby shop.

Mr Storey said the man was dragged out of the shop in a headlock by Mr Hoban who told him he "was under citizen's arrest".

Both men were arrested on suspicion of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity but, while Mr Storey said the prosecution accepts that the conversations between the men and the decoys did amount to criminal offences, neither of the men was charged.

The trial continues.

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