Vigilante paedophile hunting group let Monkstown man think he was meeting a child

When Tim Bowen attempted to contact a person he believed to be a 14-year-old girl for the purpose of sexual exploitation, the vigilante group made recordings of him which they posted online and they alerted gardaí.
Vigilante paedophile hunting group let Monkstown man think he was meeting a child

Detective Sergeant Gary Duggan arrested Tim Bowen, 45, with an address at Cottage View, Monkstown, County Cork, and charged him with two counts. Picture: iStock

“Members of a vigilante paedophile-hunting group” set up a ruse to let a 45-year-old Monkstown man believe he was about to meet a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation and today he faced sentencing.

When Tim Bowen attempted to contact a person he believed to be a 14-year-old girl for the purpose of sexual exploitation, the vigilante group made recordings of him which they posted online and they alerted gardaí.

Detective Sergeant Gary Duggan arrested Tim Bowen, 45, with an address at Cottage View, Monkstown, County Cork, and charged him with two counts. 

The first charge alleges that between July 4 and July 26 2019 he did attempt to communicate with a child by way of communication technology for the purpose of facilitating the sexual exploitation of that child.

The second charge states that at Costa Coffee in Bishopstown on July 26 2019 he did attempt to intentionally meet the child for the purpose of doing something that constituted sexual exploitation of the child, namely sexual assault.

Bowen later pleaded guilty to both counts and the case had been adjourned until today for Bowen to be sentenced.

Det Sgt Duggan was present at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to give evidence on the details of the case to Judge Sarah Berkeley.

However, defence barrister Sinéad Behan raised some preliminary issues at the outset: “I do have a concern. He did have a diagnosis of bi-polar when he was young. But we do not have a psychiatric report.” 

Before hearing the background to the case, Judge Berkeley then asked about the age of the girl mentioned in the charges. Ms Behan BL said it was an unusual offence of attempting to get in contact with a girl who was 14 but where the contacts were online and then the arrangement was made to meet with her.

“In fact it was members of a vigilante paedophile-hunting group. He was approached by this group. The guards were called. So there is no actual victim as such. It was a ruse used by this group.

“He has no previous convictions. He is 45. He was working full-time up to when this occurred. His marriage has ended as a result of this. He is in another relationship,” Ms Behan said. The accused is working part-time in a job that does not entail contact of any kind with children.

Judge Berkely said, “I am trying to ascertain the seriousness of it because the penalties are very high.” 

Ms Behan said, “He has had suicide attempts since this. There have been times when he has not been able to face the day. This all happened at a time when his marriage had broken down.

“He had been involved in online conversations that led to sexual activity – none of which were children,” Ms Behan said.

The judge asked Ms Behan if the defence was happy for the judge to proceed to sentencing in the absence of psychological or psychiatric reports. “I would always have some type of report on these types of cases,” Judge Berkeley said.

After further engagement with the defence counsel on the issue, Judge Berkeley directed preparation of a psychiatrist’s report and a forensic psychologist’s report and she also recommended that the accused take part in the Safer Lives Programme.

The judge said the background evidence in the case could be given by the investigating officer on the adjourned date. Tim Bowen was remanded on continuing bail until November 11.

Bail conditions require Tim Bowen to sign on twice a week at Togher garda station, notify gardaí of any change of address, surrender his passport and to be contactable by Det Sgt Duggan by mobile phone at all times.

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