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Man snared by paedophile hunter group back in the dock for breach of court order

A man who was snared by a paedophile hunter group was back in court after he breached his Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).

Appearing at Newry Magistrates’ Court by videolink from police custody, 47-year-old Stephen Murphy entered a guilty plea to breaching the judge imposed SOPO on December 21 by residing at an address with an 11-year-old child.

Earlier this month Murphy, previously from Killaney Avenue in Lisburn, was handed a four month jail sentence for attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming but due to time spent on remand, he was freed on the day he was sentenced.

In that case, the court heard that in July this year, a video from a so-called paedophile hunter group went viral as they carried out a ‘sting operation’ against Murphy.

With a decoy posing as a 15-year-old boy, Murphy sent an image of his penis and made arrangements for what he believed was an underage teenage boy to come to his house “for sexual activity.”

When Murphy was arrested, police “had to take the defendant out of the rear of the property due to the large number of local residents who had gathered” and during police questioning, he admitted what he had done and that he had sent indecent images of himself, conceding that he “didn’t know what he was thinking.”

In court on Wednesday, a prosecuting lawyer said Murphy had registered his address at Church Street in Dromore in line with the requirements of the police sex offenders register but that when police officers called at his address on Monday, they discovered his partner and child at the address.

Part of the five year SOPO, said the lawyer, was that Murphy was not allowed to have unsupervised contact with anyone under 16 unless he has approval from his Designated Risk Manager.

Defence solicitor Patrick Higgins submitted that as Murphy was sentenced by videolink and freed on the same day, the SOPO “was not properly served” on him, adding that neither his legal team nor his DRM were able to fully explain the terms of the SOPO to him.

He told the court that once Murphy was released, he would contact him to do so.

District Judge Eamon King said given the “particular context” of the offence, he would impose a 12 month conditional discharge which also meant that “we can revisit this disposal if something else happens in the next 12 months.”

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