A PAEDOPHILE nearly destroyed the life of a completely innocent man after he used his picture and profile to groom a 14-year-old schoolgirl.
Stephen Price, 53, of Barry Road, Barry, had posed as a “younger and more attractive man” on an adult dating site.
When he was contacted by a paedophile hunting group, called Scorpion Hunters UK, whose members were posing as an underage girl, he was roped in.
Price began to send ‘Talia’ videos of him performing sex acts on himself as well as pornographic films.
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When Scorpion Hunters UK went to confront him, they went the home of the man whose identify he stole and accused him of being a paedophile.
Not only was he wrongly exposed as a sex offender by the group on Facebook for three months, but he spent 36 hours in police custody.
Christopher Rees, prosecuting, told Cardiff Crown Court: “The defendant had created a fake profile on a dating site for over 18s.
“He had used a profile picture of a South Wales man who I will refer to as Male A.
“The defendant was in contact with ‘Talia’ on the dating site who was a member of a paedophile hunter group called Scorpion Hunters UK.
“She told him she was 14 and there was an extensive chat log.
“He sent her videos where he was performing sex acts and he sent her pornographic videos.
“They arranged to meet but he did not attend.”
Mr Rees added: “Last December, four large men turned up at Male A’s home and accused him of being a paedophile in front of his elderly mother.
“He told them he had no idea what they were talking about.
“Male A was arrested and spent 36 hours in custody until he was bailed on Christmas Eve.
“He wasn’t able to spend Christmas with his son because he was under suspicion.
“His details were posted online by Scorpion Hunters UK and they were up there for three months.
“He became a pariah in the local area and he was bombarded with abuse over social media.”
Male A was only cleared of all suspicion when Price got in touch with ‘Talia’ again in February to unwittingly unmask himself.
The court heard how the innocent man’s mental health has suffered as a result of his terrible ordeal.
Price pleaded guilty to six grooming offences, committed between September 2019 and February.
Clare Wilks, mitigating, said: “The defendant didn’t know that Male A was a local man.
“He said he had used his profile because he was a younger and more attractive man than he was and that he had no idea who he was. He wants to apologise to Male A and is extremely regretful.
“The defendant was a hard-working man who is shy and doesn’t socialise.”
Judge Nicola Jones said: “Just before Christmas, four large men attended an entirely innocent man’s home and accused him of being a paedophile in front of his elderly mother.
“His details were posted on Facebook and he was kept in police custody for 36 hours.
“Male A was reviled and abused in his own community.
“On February 26, the paedophile hunter group realised the enormous mistake they had made and that they had named and shamed a man who was entirely innocent.”
She jailed Price for three years and told him he would have to register as a sex offender for life.
Judge Jones slammed the paedophile hunter group involved in this case: “I must emphasise the danger of Scorpion Hunters UK who posted details on social media before there had been a conviction.”