THE actions of 'paedophile hunter' groups who catch those accused of contacting children online has been questioned in a crown court.

As reported, a group called Confronted and Caught went to the Poole home of Andrew Walker, 35, after one of their members posed as a 12-year-old girl called Ellie.

Walker, who was then living in Knowlton Road, brought out a knife during the confrontation, which was live-streamed on social media.

He later appeared at Bournemouth Crown Court to admit attempting to cause or incite a child aged under 13 to engage in sexual activity. It was heard he spent some two months talking to 'Ellie', encouraging her to perform sex acts upon herself and send him photographs of her underwear.

He also said he'd had a previous sexual relationship with a girl of a similar age. Children's underwear was found at his home, but no further offences have been identified.

A judge last week sentenced him to a three-year community order with 300 hours of unpaid work, a ten-year sexual harm prevention order and an order to attend a sex offender rehabilitation programme.

During the hearing, Rob Welling, prosecuting, said Walker was confronted by a "number of rather burly gentlemen" from Confronted and Caught.

Police were not called by members of the group, and were in fact alerted by Walker himself, it was heard.

"He was intimidated, and probably justifiably so, and he took a knife and showed it to them," Mr Welling said.

Roderick Blaine, mitigating, suggested the group had deliberately chosen for 'Ellie' to be 12, rather than 13, as possible prison sentences are "more draconian" before a child becomes a teenager.

"These paedophile hunters will be well aware of that," he said.

"If one looks carefully, one will find that Mr Walker himself phones that police.

"Had [the group's] motives been purer, one might have thought they would have contacted police before they went to his house."

Judge Robert Pawson told Walker: "You were confronted by a vigilante group last October.

"It is perhaps regretful that they did not pass their information onto the police."