Paedophile hunters travelled to Norwich to confront man on doorstep over child grooming

Liam Staff. Picture: Norfolk Constabulary

Liam Staff. Picture: Norfolk Constabulary - Credit: Norfolk Constabulary

A vigilante group travelled to Norwich to confront a suspected paedophile on his doorstep, a court heard.

The group visited the city home of Liam Staff, 26, who they suspected of trying to groom a young girl online for sex.

Norwich Crown Court heard Staff had been chatting on WhatsApp with a girl who he thought was a 13-year-old from Birmingham, but who was in fact a woman belonging to a group protecting children from online sexual predators.

Christopher Paxton, prosecuting, said the group had through another group traced where Staff lived in Norwich and then turned up at his address to confront him about his online sexual grooming.

Mr Paxton said there was no public disturbance but police were called and Staff was arrested.

Staff, formerly of Elizabeth Fry Road, Norwich, admitted attempting to incite or engage a child into sexual activity between September 1 and October 22 last year.

Jailing him for 30 months and placing him on the sex offenders' register for 10 years, Recorder Guy Ayers said it was unfortunate the way the group had gone about tracking down Staff, rather than handing over the matter to police.

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He told Staff: 'It seems extremely unfortunate that the group preferred to take it upon themselves to go to your home, as one of them had identified who you were.'

He said their action had been 'ill-judged and inappropriate' and said 'If they had found this information out it should have been communicated immediately to the police who could have dealt with it in a professional manner.'

Recorder Ayers accepted it was an attempt and no real 13-year-old girl was involved and also that Staff had already stopped communicating with the girl before his arrest but said: 'There can be no excuse for what you did.'

He also made Staff subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

Andrew Oliver, for Staff, said he had a number of issues in his life at the time and, although the group which set up the fake profile cliamed not to be vigilantes he said: 'The way the arrest took place would seem to be clearly to the contrary.'

He said the fact a group turned up on his doorstep added to the stress of his arrest by police. He said no girl of 13 had been affected by his actions.