A Pakistani migrant told a court he “didn’t understand” that it was illegal to have sex with a child after being caught in a sting operation by paedophile hunters.
Adil Sultan, 39, thought he was meeting a 14-year-old girl named Laura for sex when he travelled to Sunderland, England, from his home in Middlesborough in August 2017.
But upon his arrival in Sunderland, rather than meeting the child he had contacted on the website Skout, he was confronted by members of the paedophile hunting group Guardians of the North.
The group states on its Twitter profile that it is “dedicated to keeping our children safe from online grooming and paedophiles” and sets up fake accounts on social media to expose adults looking for sex with children.
Video obtained by the Sunderland Echo shows the migrant being apprehended by the Guardians of the North who then made a “citizen’s arrest”, under Section 24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, detaining Sultan until the police arrived.
Newcastle Crown Court later heard that the Pakistani national believed “it was okay” to have sex with a 14-year-old child, the Echo reports.
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Sultan’s defence, Mohammed Rafiq, said his client “didn’t understand [that it was illegal]. Obviously, each country is different.”
When Judge Penny Moreland asked Mr. Rafiq to clarify that it was the fact that it was not okay to have sex with 14-year-olds that his client did not understand, the defence lawyer replied: “He did not understand that.”
Sentencing Sultan to 17 months’ imprisonment and to 10 years on the sex offender register, Judge Moreland told him: “You used a false name. You said you were 25 when in fact you are 39.
“Very quickly ‘Laura’ told you she was 14. Nonetheless, you went on to discuss having penetrative sexual activity with her.
“The conversation very quickly became sexual and you were asking for indecent images of herself.
“Your barrister tells me you thought it was OK to have sex with 14-year-olds. That is no excuse and offers you no mitigation.”
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The migrant “apologised to the court for his actions”, claiming that he had not visited Skout to intentionally look for children to have sex with.
His lawyer states that his client intends to apply for asylum in the UK because it is “unsafe” for the convicted sex offender to return to Pakistan.
“The mood in that particular country is quite heated at the moment because a young girl, eight years old, was abducted and killed,” Mr. Rafiq explained.
“He has instructed me that it would be unsafe for him to go back to his country and someone else is instructed to make an application for asylum. That is another matter for another tribunal.”
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) January 13, 2018
Stats obtained by the BBC show that more than 44 per cent of cases involving child sex grooming meetings used evidence obtained by paedophile hunters in 2017, with the Guardians of the North claiming to have snared 68 abusers in just 10 months.
But police leaders, possibly embarrassed by the success of these citizens groups after police forces were lambasted for apparently covering up abuse by mostly Muslim grooming rings themselves, have voiced strong opposition to their activities.
“These vigilante groups are putting the lives of children at risk,” alleged Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs Council lead for child protection.
“I’m not going to condone these groups and I would encourage them all to stop, but I recognise that I am not winning that conversation.
“I think [working with vigilantes] is something we’re going to have to potentially have to look at, yes, but it comes with some real complexity.”