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Dublin Criminal Court Alamy Stock Photo

UK predator vigilante group methods 'bordering on entrapment', lawyers say at sentencing hearing

A Dublin man is facing sentencing for sending explicit messages to someone he believed was a 14-year-old girl.

THE METHODS USED by a UK group seeking to expose “predators” online have been described as “objectionable” and “bordering on entrapment” by lawyers for a Dublin man facing sentencing for sending explicit messages to someone he believed was a 14-year-old girl.

Keith Redmond (45) of Clearstream Court, McKee Avenue, Finglas pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to attempting, by electronic means, to disseminate sexually explicit material to a child between 30 August and 3 December, 2022.

At a previous hearing the court heard that the alarm was raised by a UK-based group called Volunteers for Predator Exposure.

That group seeks out people who attempt to communicate with children by creating decoys and waiting to see if the decoy is contacted.

In this case, the group created a decoy called ‘Amber’, a 14-year-old girl living in Leeds in the UK.

The court heard that Redmond had put his details on a social media platform called Kick as “male, 44, from Ireland” and that the decoy, ‘Amber’, had connected with him.

Anne Rowland SC, defending, today told Judge Orla Crowe, during her plea in mitigation, that this case had caused her concern and should cause the court concern.

She said her client had posted a profile on a widely used website, that was not dedicated to porn or underage children, without seeking to contact anyone underage and a message had come to him.

She said her client had been approached by a UK-based person seeking out predators who are abusing or seeking to exploit underage girls. She said this was not the case with her client.

Rowland said this case could be distinguished from others before the court as her client did not set out to look for an underage girl and there was no evidence that he did.

She said the messaging was “not nice” and had sexual content but submitted he indicated to a Probation Officer that he was playing out a fantasy and there would never be a meeting.

She said her client had not shown up for an arranged meeting and contact was again initiated by the decoy following two weeks of “radio silence” from her client.

She said there was something very objectionable about the methods of the organisation which set out to entrap her client. She said he had nothing of this nature on his mind and was “beguiled” into it.

Rowland said she had a big concern this was bordering on entrapment and the court could take that into account in sentencing.

She submitted, while her client feels ashamed and remorseful, there was not a “real person” involved or being abused.

She said a probation report before the court wrongly said he had initiated the contact but pointed out an assessment in the report places him at low risk of reoffending.

Judge Crowe said it had not been previously asserted that this was “borderline entrapment” and she adjourned finalisation of the case until Thursday to give her time to reread the text messages.

At the earlier hearing, Garda Tracey O’Reilly told Karl Moran BL, prosecuting, that within a few messages, Redmond asked ‘Amber’ what age she was and she replied that she was 14.

Rowland pointed out that Redmond then replied, “OK I’m a bit too old for you,” whereupon the decoy replied, “it’s up to you,” and Redmond answered, “add me so.”

The court heard that Redmond then requested that the conversation move to the private messaging service WhatsApp.

Redmond and the decoy proceeded to text one another over the following three months in a conversation that spanned 83 typed pages, the court heard.

The chat initially comprised of ordinary conversation but then became sexually explicit.

Redmond sent the decoy four photographs of his penis on dates in November 2022. He also sent selfies of his face and tattoos.

The court heard there was a “grooming element” in that Redmond discussed meeting ‘Amber’ for sexual activity, offered to buy her a phone and discussed running away to live together.

They spoke about booking a hotel in Leeds and Redmond said he would have to act as her father and she would have to pretend to be his daughter.

“Your Mum would kill me if she knew I was texting you so this is our secret,” one text read, while another told ‘Amber’ she was Redmond’s “sexy secret”.

The accused said he had never done anything like this before and told ‘Amber’ she was “honest, beautiful and smart”.

On one occasion, Redmond texted: “I don’t care that you’re 14, I like you lots.”

The court heard that the UK-group used open source technology to locate the person making contact with their decoy and then got in touch with a similar Irish group called Child Online Protection Enforcers.

Members of this group located Redmond on a laneway beside Boyle Sports on Manor Street in Dublin 7 and there were ‘angry scenes’ the court heard, before gardaí were called and Redmond asked for garda protection.

Redmond gave his phone to gardaí and told them about the conversations on Kick and WhatsApp with ‘Amber’. He said they talked about “normal stuff” at first but that it turned serious and they talked about what they would do to one another.

“After a while I sent a dick pic, I don’t know why I did it, but I did,” Redmond told gardaí.

He has no previous convictions.

Rowland, told the court that members of the UK group Predator Exposure have been tried in the UK for false imprisonment in the last year.

Counsel also pointed out that Kick is a social media platform and that Redmond told gardaí he had not gone on the site with any intention of making contact with a child.

The court heard of a planned meeting between Redmond and ‘Amber’ in a Leeds hotel that never happened as Redmond did not book flights.

The decoy sent him several messages on the day asking if he had come and that Redmond didn’t reply until he texted “sorry” two weeks later and told ‘Amber’ that he got “cold feet”.

Redmond was working as a barman and was married with one child at the time of the offence, the court heard.

Counsel said Redmond’s marriage had been breaking down for several years at the time of the offence and he was very unhappy.

“He embarks on this obsessive correspondence, it has all the hallmarks of a lonely person,” Rowland said.

As a result of this prosecution Redmond has lost his job, left the family home and is now living with his parents in the city centre.

Jessica Magee and Fiona Ferguson