Manchester Evening News

Paedophile hunters picked wrong man in Asda sting



A JUDGE has ordered an investigat­ion after an innocent man was arrested at a supermarke­t following a sting by paedophile hunters.

Michael Chapman, 39, had been sending vile sexualised messages to five social media accounts, which he believed were being operated by teenage girls.

When he suggested an Asda store in Salford as a potential meeting place, a number of members of the unnamed vigilante group attended and one picked out a man she believed was Chapman. Despite being entirely unconnecte­d and innocent, he was arrested after the member of the group ‘completely misidentif­ied’ him.

Chapman, from Eccles, was arrested two weeks later, Manchester Crown Court heard. As he was hauled before the courts, a judge ordered an investigat­ion to be carried out to find out what went wrong.

Judge Sarah Johnston said she was not ‘ascribing blame’ over the innocent man’s arrest, but wanted to know whether an investigat­ion has already been carried out by police, and urged a probe to be launched if not.

“It seems to me to be a situation which is going to arise again, if steps are not taken to ensure that these cases are investigat­ed properly by those who are responsibl­e for such investigat­ions,” she said.

Prosecutor­s told how Chapman had been messaging the five ‘decoy’ accounts on social media sites over a six week period, between November 2020 and January 2021. The users told him that they were 13 or 14-year-old girls.

During the chats he sent videos of himself masturbati­ng and engaged in disgusting messaging with the ‘girls.’ In the conversati­ons, the idea of meeting up was raised. Chapman suggested a location as being an Asda store in Eccles.

Members of the paedophile hunter group attended the shop on December 19, 2021, where one of them ‘completely misidentif­ied’ him and picked out an innocent man.

“After a proper investigat­ion, this defendant was arrested on January 5, 2021,” prosecutor Nick Clarke said.

Chapman was only summonsed to court in September last year, after analysis of his phone was not deemed to be ‘high priority,’ the court heard. He pleaded guilty to five counts of attempting to engage in sexual communicat­ion with a child, three counts of causing a child to watch a sexual act and two counts of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Defending, Ellen Shaw said Chapman had no previous conviction­s and had not committed any further offences following the delays which were not his fault. Chapman was sentenced to two years, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and complete 15 rehabilita­tion activity requiremen­t days.

He was also told he must carry out a sexual offences program, which the judge said was ‘the surest way of ensuring that conduct is not repeated.’

 ?? ?? Michael Chapman sent vile sexual messages to what he thought were teenage girls
Michael Chapman sent vile sexual messages to what he thought were teenage girls

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