West Yorkshire Police 'respects' jury's decision to clear Leeds paedophile hunter group members of false imprisonment

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West Yorkshire Police has said it 'respects' a jury's decision to find six members of a paedophile hunter group not guilty of false imprisonment.

The force said today it believed it was in the public interest to bring the case against members of Leeds-based Predator Exposure and for evidence to be tested before a jury.

Not guilty: Group leader Phillip Hoban said the work of Predator Exposure will continue after six members of the group were cleared by a jury.

Not guilty: Group leader Phillip Hoban said the work of Predator Exposure will continue after six members of the group were cleared by a jury.

Concerns were also expressed about the way so-called 'child abuse activist groups' continued to confront people they suspect of committing online sex offences.

Prosecutors alleged the defendants "overstepped the mark" when confronting two men after they had taken part in online chats with group members posing as teenagers.

Six members of the group went on trial accused of charges including false imprisonment and common assault.

They were cleared of all charges following an eight-day trial at Leeds Crown Court.

Cleared: Jordan Plain, Christine James-Roberts, Kelly Meadows, Jordan McDonald and Dean Walls outside Leeds Crown Court

Cleared: Jordan Plain, Christine James-Roberts, Kelly Meadows, Jordan McDonald and Dean Walls outside Leeds Crown Court

A spokesperson for West Yorkshire Police said after the case: "West Yorkshire Police of course respects and accepts the view of the court.

"It was felt in the public interest to bring this matter to trial and for evidence to be tested by a jury.

"We have repeatedly stated in recent years that protecting children from harm has been a top priority for West Yorkshire Police and that absolutely remains the case.

"Officers always encourage members of the public to report any concerns about illegal internet activity of potential child abusers to us so that we can deal with it.

"We are also concerned about the activities of online child abuse activist groups and their exposure activity in confronting persons they have identified.

"We urge members of such 'exposure' groups not to carry out this activity and instead to report suspected offences in West Yorkshire to the force via 101 or the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111."

Predator Exposure members yesterday vowed to carry on seeking out potential child abusers after they were cleared of all charges.

Philip Hoban, 43, who set up the group, said: "This is just the first start and we'll be back hunting, very soon. Tune in people."

Jurors heard that the members detained and verbally abused two men and used unnecessary force against one, who was allegedly put in a headlock and dragged out of a shop against his will.

The defendants denied all the charges against them, claiming they were making lawful citizen's arrests.

In August 2018, four of the defendants went to a house in Featherstone to confront a man who had talked online with a Predator Exposure member posing as a 14-year-old, the court heard.

The man, who had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as a child and is believed to be on the autistic spectrum, was prevented from leaving his back garden and going inside his home to get his medication, and was left "extremely scared and upset".

Another man was confronted by five of the defendants in the Chapel Allerton area of Leeds in January this year.

He was chased to a nearby shop, where some members of the group attempted to physically drag him outside to make a citizen's arrest, the jury heard.

Both of the men who were confronted were arrested on suspicion of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity but, while prosecutors accepted the conversations between the men and the decoys did amount to criminal offences, neither of the men was charged.

Hoban, from Beeston in Leeds, and his 19-year-old son Jordan McDonald, from the Farnley area of Leeds, were found not guilty of two counts of false imprisonment and one of common assault.

Jordan Plain, 26, from Leeds, and Dean Walls, 52, from Moortown, Leeds, were found not guilty of one count of false imprisonment and one of common assault.

Kelly Meadows, 40, from Leeds, was found not guilty of two counts of false imprisonment, and Christine James-Roberts, 60, from Headingley, Leeds, was found not guilty of one charge of false imprisonment.