Judge calls on agency reporter to show video missed by police in 'paedophile hunter' trial

A court reporter was thanked by a Crown Court judge yesterday for submitting evidence to a jury during the trial of a carer accused of sexually communicating with children.

The 41-year-old man had been filmed on 3 January by a group of paedophile hunters who accused him of sending sexually explicit messages to an 11-year-old girl.

The girl was actually a fake profile set up by a group calling themselves the ‘Northwest Hebephile Hunters’, who live-streamed their confrontation with the man on Facebook in a video viewed 200,000 times in just 24 hours.

Hampshire Constabulary had tried to obtain the video, the court heard, but it was taken down by Facebook admins before officers could find it.

However, a journalist who attended the second day of the trial at Winchester Crown Court had managed to obtain a copy of the video, which was shown to the jury.

Elisabeth Bussey-Jones, defending, told the jury: “There is a member of the press who is in court at present. He brought it to our attention that he had a copy of the live-streaming video.

“By the time police went to seize that video, it had already been removed from the social media website. However, the press had a copy of that.”

Charlie Moloney, representing the Hyde News and Pictures agency, played the video to the jury by connecting his laptop to the court’s Clickshare system.

The video showed one of the paedophile hunters briefly pinning the man against a wall before a police officer arrived to arrest him.

The carer, who entered the witness box to give evidence, was cross-examined by both his defending lawyer and the prosecutor about the contents of the video which was displayed by the press.

Judge Susan Evans QC, addressing Moloney once the video had finished, said: “Thank you to the gentleman from the press for that.”

Without the jury present, the judge had accepted an application from the defending lawyer to play the video submitted by the press.

Gemma White, prosecuting, told the judge (also without the jury present): “Had the video been available to us as part of the investigation, I probably would have played it as part of the prosecution case.”

Judge Evans, accepting the application, stated: “The press have got it. I think I would be shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

“If we have got it and there is interest in it, there is nothing to find objectionable about it. I think it might be worth just being up front with the jury as to how we have suddenly got this.”

The accused has denied four charges of attempting to incite a girl under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity with a child and one count of attempting to have sexual communication with a child.

Speaking after the case, Moloney said: “Our investigative journalism often uncovers important evidence which even the police cannot find.

“It was a first for me to be submitting evidence in front of a Crown Court jury and then watch it play a role in such a serious trial, but I was glad to be able to assist with the case.

“This is a clear demonstration of how important it is for reporters to be present in courts. Our seats on the press bench are too often empty.”

In June, Charlie Moloney qualified in Teeline shorthand at 120 words per minute, the fastest speed recorded for journalists, and won a Media Law award last year from the National Council for the Training of Journalists and Oxford University Press.

Hyde News and Pictures is a national news agency based in Reading, Berks., and the editor is Neil Hyde, formerly the editor of INS News Agency.

Picture: Hyde News and Pictures

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