A YOUNG dad who thought he was going to have sex with a 14-year-old Wigan schoolgirl but ended up battered in a vigilante trap has been jailed.
Perverted Andrew O’Neill had already booked a hotel for his illegal encounter with what turned out to be a non-existent youngster, Liverpool Crown Court heard.
The 25-year-old arrived in Wigan to meet the girl whom he had been grooming via an online dating website, but unknown to him it was a sting operation by self-appointed paedophile hunters.
The girl “Alex” was a figment and his increasingly sexualised comments to the teenager, who had said she was 14, were in fact being answered by the vigilantes.
It all came to light when he arrived in Wigan to meet her and passers-by saw him being beaten up by a gang in Market Place, said Sarah Holt, prosecuting.
He was head-butted and lost two teeth in the attack which was filmed by one of the group. The video was then posted on Facebook with the tag “NWI Nonce Busters”, believed to be a reference to right-wing group the North West Infidels.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that O’Neill’s marriage had broken down and defence barrister Steven Swift said he “had lost his sense of morality and been in a dark place.”
Jailing O’Neill, who has never been in trouble before, for 12 months, Judge Everett said that he had admitted to the probation officer that he had been “hedonistic” and was looking for fun and sexual encounters.
The 33 pages of messages sent over the five-day period showed him grooming “Alex” and his suggestions became “bolder and bolder. You were clearly grooming her knowing she was 14 in a disgusting and despicable way, ultimately trying to groom her to have sex.”
The judge said that vigilante groups should not take the law into their own hands as otherwise society would “literally sink into anarchy.”
O’Neill, formerly of Skelmersdale but now no fixed address, pleaded guilty to attempting to meet a girl under 16 following grooming between April 13 and 18 this year.
He was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years and an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order restricting his internet use and contact with under 16-year-old girls was made by the judge.