Two young men who attacked a pervert as he was confronted by “paedophile hunters” have been ordered to carry out 300 hours’ community service.
Lee John Harvey, 20, of The Drive in Gravesend, and Joe Simpkin, also 20, of Wheatstone Road in Erith, were charged with affray following the confrontation at Bluewater, which was streamed live on Facebook.
A group known as The Hunted One had arranged to meet 29-year-old Mirza Mispa Beg at the Greenhithe shopping centre on April 12.
Homeless Beg believed he was meeting a 14-year-old girl for sex and has since admitted arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence. He will be sentenced later this month.
Friends Harvey and Simpkin were eating in Bluewater’s food court when they saw the live footage on The Hunted One’s Facebook page and realised it was happening within walking distance, in one of the shopping centre’s car parks, close to Marks and Spencer.
They both went to where the confrontation was taking place.
During a hearing at Medway Magistrates’ Court today Debbie Jones, prosecuting, said the pair were verbally and physically aggressive towards Beg.
They swore at him, threatened to attack him and said they hoped he would kill himself, the court heard.
Harvey spat at Beg several times, Miss Jones said, but some ended up on a security officer who was trying to stop the violence.
Simpkin, who climbed onto a wall around a flower bed during the fracas, admitted throwing a punch and told police everything had got out of hand.
Samantha White, defending Harvey, said live streaming this type of incident was likely to lead to trouble but said her client has to accept that “two wrongs don’t make a right”.
Miss White said her client was a young, ambitious man of previous good character who decided aged 14 he wanted to be a plumber, did work experience with his uncle and had become Gas Safe registered by 19.
She added: “He is a very different young man from those who ordinarily find themselves in the court system.”
Katherine Tuthill, for Simpkin, said her client is autistic but was not using his condition as an excuse for his behaviour.
She said he had been at Bluewater “minding his own business” when he saw The Hunted One’s sting and watched for about five minutes before getting involved.
He was angered by messages being read from Beg’s phone, which the pervert thought he was sending to a young girl, Miss Tuthill said.
The pair were spotted on Bluewater’s CCTV system and later arrested.
They said they regretted their actions and realised there were families walking past who may have been frightened by the brawl.
Both men pleaded guilty to affray at a hearing in May and were sentenced today.
They were both given a 12-month community order and must undertake 300 hours of unpaid work as well as complete a 10-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement (RAR).
They were ordered to pay £170 each but chairman of the bench Philip Crow did not make them pay compensation to Beg.
Mr Crow said the pair could have ended up in prison, adding that he and his fellow magistrates had listened to what was said about the young men and the “nature of the offence”.