Northern Ireland

Care home resident arrested over 'attempt to contact child'

PSNi officer and crest Image copyright Pacemaker

A resident has been removed from a County Tyrone care home after being arrested on suspicion of attempting sexual communication with a child.

The arrest followed the arrival of a number of people at the care home who claimed to have gathered information about inappropriate online activity.

They were described as a "vigilante-type group" by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA).

The arrested man was bailed and moved out of the home to a similar facility.

'Polite'

Vigilante-type groups got a lot of coverage in Northern Ireland last year - some were referred to as paedophile hunters and many of them were quite aggressive and posted their operations online.

But these latest so-called "activists" acted quite differently.

BBC News NI understands that when they turned up at the care home one evening last month they were polite, non-aggressive and did not film or publicise the incident.

Instead, they had put together a file which they claimed contained information about inappropriate online activity.

They asked to speak to the man but were refused.

The group then handed over their material and left the care home.

After the vigilantes left that night, the police were contacted and the resident was arrested.

The man was detained on suspicion of attempted sexual communication with a child, according to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

He has since been bailed and is no longer living at the care home involved.

Internet access

At this stage, for legal reasons, BBC News NI cannot identify the resident or the County Tyrone care home in which he had been living.

But we can report that the man was under the care of the Southern Heath Trust.

The trust had put a care plan in place which allegedly stipulated that he should not have internet access.

BBC News NI understands that was because of his previous internet use, none of which was understood to be criminal, but had caused concern.

The term "vigilante-type group" was used by the care home regulator, the RQIA.

It told BBC News NI that it was "appropriately notified of an incident involving a vigilante-type group" at the care home in early December.

The RQIA statement added that the safety and wellbeing of all the care home's residents was of "paramount importance" and it would "continue to monitor this service through our ongoing inspection and regulatory activities".

The people who arrived at the care home are not being investigated by the PSNI, which have sometimes referred to vigilante groups as "online child abuse activist groups".

In the past, the police have warned against vigilante activity, and previous arrests were made over accusations of assault or intimidation, but those concerns did not arise in this case.