Three alleged paedophile hunters try to get court case against them thrown out
Three alleged paedophile hunters accused of targeting suspected sex offenders and trying to menace an investigative journalist are to mount a legal bid to have the case against them thrown out, a court heard on Tuesday.
Defence lawyers plan to argue charges should be dismissed because guidance from police on how to carry out their activities amounted to an abuse of executive power.
George Keenan, 34, Richard Curtis, 32, and Tim Heron, 28, face a series of charges linked to alleged meetings with named individuals at a number of locations in Northern Ireland.
They included counts of false imprisonment, attempting to cause suspects to leave place of occupation and common assault.
Keenan, of Glenwood Court in the Dunmurry area of Belfast; Curtis from Albert Road in Carrickfergus, Co Antrm; and Heron, of Cloverhill Vale in Bangor, Co Down, are also jointly charged in connection with an incident involving BBC reporter Kevin Magee earlier this year.
Mr Magee was allegedly confronted by a group at a coffee shop on Botanic Avenue in south Belfast.
Footage of the encounter showed the journalist, who was making a news report on the activities of paedophile hunter groups operating in Northern Ireland, then being followed outside as he made his way to a car.
The defendants are all charged with disorderly behaviour and attempting by force, threat or menace to cause Mr Magee to refrain from broadcasting a television interview.
Keenan and Heron are accused of obstruction as part of the same incident on February 6.
All three men are currently on bail while they wait for a preliminary enquiry to establish if they should be committed for trial.
At a previous hearing one of their lawyers claimed police had supplied group members with a "paedophile hunting manual" which involved a 19-point plan on how to achieve best evidence.
As the case was mentioned at Belfast Magistrates' Court today, defence counsel Mark Farrell revealed those alleged instructions will form the basis of an attempt to get the case dismissed.
"This prosecution arises out of the so-called activities of paedophile hunters, and there are major issues regarding the bona fides of the case," he told the court.
"The defendants were all served with notice from senior police on how they should go about their activities and given techniques.
"It's a very unusual and very serious case - there will be an application to stay these proceedings, this will be a fully contested committal."
Proceedings were adjourned for six weeks, when a preliminary enquiry date is expected to be listed.