A man who was part of a gang which attacked a victim they wrongly believed was a paedophile has been jailed after being caught sending sexual pictures and messages to a “child”.
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At Bolton Crown Court Paul Tong, who was arrested after being confronted by paedophile hunters, was jailed for three years and three months.
In 2016 he was part of a vigilante group who beat up a vulnerable man they mistakenly believed had a child in the house.
“The hypocrisy of that stance is something I feel I have to mark rather than completely overlook,” Judge Timothy Stead told him after hearing how 34-year-old Tong was still subject to a suspended prison sentence for the offence when he began contacting, what he thought was, a 13-year-old girl, over social media.
Jonathan Savage, prosecuting, told the court that, in fact, the girl, named Gracie, was a fictitious character made up by a member of a paedophile hunting group called Redemption.
Between November 18, 2017 and April 8, 2018, Tong, of Ainsworth Road, Little Lever, contacted Gracie numerous times.
The court heard how Tong, who had the username “anonymous” on the Nearby app, sent pictures of his private parts to her and repeatedly made sexual remarks to her.
“From the very beginning it was made clear, from as far as defendant was concerned, he was conversing with a 13-year-old child,” said Mr Savage.
During the conversations Tong claimed he was called Justin and was a 31-year-old bailiff living in Salford.
“The conversations became sexualised very quickly,” said Mr Savage, who said said that, in addition to sending indecent pictures of his private parts and people having sex, Tong would describe how he wanted to have sex with Gracie and encouraged her to carry out sexual acts on herself.
When they had enough evidence the paedophile hunters traced Tong and confronted him outside his home, filming the encounter to post online and called the police.
Tong pleaded guilty to five counts of attempting to cause a child to watch a sexual act and and three charges of attempting to incite a child to engage in a sexual act. Martin Pizzey, defending, stressed that Tong accepts what he did was “extremely wrong” and “he is genuinely sorry”.
Tong was placed on the sex offenders’ register and made subject to a sexual harm prevention order for a indefinite period.