Vigilante sentenced over sex video campaign

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The Independent Online

A vigilante who filmed men meeting up for sex in a bid to clean up a woodland was today spared jail.

Colin Haw, 47, posted the footage on a website to name and shame those he caught in the wood near Sleaford in Lincolnshire.

The father-of-two said he reported the problem to police but was ignored so decided to take action because the area was visited by families and children.

Images shown to the court depicted the self-employed mechanic and his accomplices dressed in balaclavas, combat kit and brandishing a video camera and walkie-talkies.

On occasions they would pretend to be looking for sex in order to lure gay men into the area before confronting them and demanding to know what they were doing.

He then posted the footage on the website, which between January 2008 and last April recorded 9.2million page hits.

Often the images were dubbed with music such as YMCA by the Village People and the nursery rhyme Teddy Bear's picnic.

Liz Harte, defending, described Haw's actions as a "misguided enterprise".

She said: "There were several people involved and one or two of them raised this matter with police.

"The fact of the matter was that nothing was done about it. That's why some people engaged in this vigilante activity.

"In this aspect, Mr Haw thought he was doing the right thing. The thinking was that he was a protector of morals and a guardian of children."

Pat Walsh, chairman of the bench, sentenced Haw to four months in prison, suspended for a year and a half.

He also ordered him to do 200 hours community service work but rejected an application by Lincolnshire Police for an anti-social behaviour order to be made against the amateur film maker.

Mr Walsh told Haw: "Your actions were premeditated and quite deliberate in targeting a group of people we would describe as vulnerable. Our thoughts were to send you to custody but we are not going to do that today."

Haw, of Mayflower Road, Boston, earlier admitted a public order offence for filming one of his victims in a lay-by next to the A17 on 17 June last year.

Outside court, Haw said: "We didn't go in there to cause people harm. We reported it on several occasions to the police. We tried to name and shame them but we didn't have any intention of causing them distress. We didn't put up any pornographic material.

"In our videos in Boston we have also brought attention to all the rubbish and the drug users who have thrown their syringes on the floor.

"We were not out to cause any trouble. The police wanted it covered up.

"I've got nothing against homosexual people but what gives them the authority to do it in public?"