Convicted sex offender from Sunderland snared by online paedophile hunters days after court ban

A convicted sex offender was snared by internet vigilantes he believed to be children in an online sting, a court heard.

Tuesday, 25th February 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th February 2020, 10:09 am

Neil Armstrong, 48, of Fordenbridge Square, Ford Estate, Sunderland, got chatting to members of paedophile hunting groups Dark Justice and Guardians of the North, who posed as 14-year-old girls.

He did so just days after being banned under a crown court order from having dealings with anyone aged under 18 without parental consent, South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court heard.

Armstrong used the moniker MrArm48 to breach the order, his digital footprint being spotted by Dark Justice which then set up a fake online profile, followed independently by the Guardians of the North.

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The case was heard at South Tyneside Law Courts. Picture by FRANK REID.

The court was told Dark Justice posed under the name Amy18, the second group using LoriT18, with both telling Armstrong online they were 14.

Prosecutor Brenda Beck said the conversations, on August 12 with Dark Justice, and the following day with the Guardians of the North, were similar in patterns.

On each occasion, Armstrong was told the girls’ mum might at some point be out the house, she told the court.

With Amy18, Mrs Beck said: “He asked her, ‘Do you drive?’, she said, ‘No, I’m too young to drive’. ‘I’m 15 on the 14th of September’.

“She also tells him that she may go to town because her mum’s working. She also tells him that she went to McDonald’s.”

And she added: “With LoriT18, she tells him that she’s 14. There are discussions about mum being out at night and that she might go for a McDonald’s. She tells him that she goes horse riding.”

Annalisa Moscardini, defending, told the court the vigilantes were “clearly trying to get a response”.

She added: “There was no attempt to turn the conversation sexual. He talks to a wide number of people, he sits and chats to everybody. It’s a minor breach.”

Deputy District Judge Mark Daley said: “On a scale of seriousness there’s no evidence of ill intent. He did not take the bait.

“You went to the crown court and were told not to have unsupervised contact with children.

“On two consecutive days in August last year, shortly after the order was made, you were online chatting to people who told you they were 14.

“There’s no suggestion you were going looking for children to talk to. You should however have stopped talking to them when they told you they were 14.”

Last August at Newcastle Crown Court Armstrong admitted attempted sexual communication with a child and was given a two-year community order with rehabilitation requirements.

He was also ordered to sign the sex offender’s register and abide by the terms of a sexual harm prevention order for five years.

Armstrong, who pleaded guilty to two charges of breaching a Sexual Harm Prevention Order at the magistrates' court, was given a 12-month community order with a requirement of 15 days’ rehabilitation work and must pay a £90 victim surcharge and £85 court costs.