Man wanted to meet girl (12) in England

Court
Court

A Co Antrim man accused of trying to meet a 12-year-old girl in England for sexual purposes said he was travelling to a snooker tournament, the High Court heard on Friday.

Patrick McWilliams, 55, was arrested at Belfast City Airport after boarding a flight to Leeds, prosecutors said.

He faces a series of charges linked to an investigation by a law enforcement agency involving the use of an online decoy to target suspected paedophiles.

Refusing bail, a judge cited the need to protect children from any exploitation.

McWilliams, of Craigburn in Antrim, is accused of attempted sexual communication with a child, attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity, and attempting to travel to meet a child following sexual grooming.

He is further charged with distributing indecent images, engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child and breach of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order.

The alleged offences were committed on dates between January and March this year.

Crown lawyer Kate McKay said police received information from a UK-based law enforcement agency seeking to detect those using social network sites as part of their sexual interest in children.

A decoy using the pseudonym ‘Poppy’ was deployed to monitor chat rooms on an adult website called ‘Motherless’.

According to Mrs McKay the decoy received a private message from a user named ‘Naughty Oscar’ who introduced himself as a “nice, naughty mature man”.

In the conversations which allegedly ensued the decoy mentioned they had a 12-year-old daughter, the court heard.

It was claimed this led to the user disclosing his interest in and fantasies about girls of that age.

A series of exchanges culminated in an arrangement to travel to Leeds to meet the child, the prosecution alleged.

Mrs McKay said McWilliams was then arrested on board an airplane on March 15.

During interviews he told police he was going to a snooker tournament taking place in the region at the time.

As he refused bail, Mr Justice McAlinden said his primary concern was to protect young individuals from sexual exploitation.