Three men have appeared in court in Northern Ireland on attempted intimidation charges as part of a police investigation into alleged paedophile hunting.
George Keenan, 34, Richard Curtis, 32, and Tim Heron, 28, are also accused of unlawful imprisonment and assault.
They each face 18 or 19 charges in relation to alleged activities in the Belfast and Co Down areas since September last year, prosecutors told Belfast Magistrates’ Court.
A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) sergeant told presiding district judge Fiona Bagnall: “We don’t believe that they have been assisting police because they have been told continuously to desist from this activity.
“They have chosen to carry on and detain individuals and carry out their own investigations.”
Some of the alleged offences relate to an incident on Belfast’s Botanic Avenue on February 6 in which disorderly behaviour and attempted intimidation is alleged.
The trio are accused of attempting unlawfully by force, threats or menaces to cause BBC journalist Kevin Magee to refrain from broadcasting an interview on television as well as disorderly behaviour.
Keenan and Heron are also accused of obstruction of a road.
The trio, heavily-set and casually dressed, appeared in the dock guarded by prison officers.
Keenan, from Glenwood Court in Dunmurry, Belfast, also faces charges dating from September last year involving unlawful imprisonment, assault, detaining people against their will and forcing people to leave home.
He is accused of failing to give information to police.
Curtis, from Albert Road in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, is accused of using disorderly behaviour in Banbridge, Co Down, imprisonment and assault.
He is also charged with attempting to cause a man to leave his home.
Heron, from Cloverhill Vale in Bangor, Co Down, is accused of unlawfully imprisoning and assaulting a man and attempting to threaten him into leaving his home.
He is also alleged to have accused a person of being a “paedo” in front of a crowd in Banbridge with the intention of breaching the peace.
A defence lawyer suggested police had issued the group with a “paedophile hunting manual” helping them to gather the best evidence they can.
The officer said police were willing to take any information in relation to any crime but it was for them to take action.
He added: “We would never encourage any group to confront or to unlawfully detain and put themselves in danger or… unlawfully imprison individuals.
“Report it to the police and allow us as the competent authority to carry out investigations.”
The lawyer said this group had contacted police on 100 separate occasions with evidence.
The accused were released on bail, and conditions included abiding by a curfew, not using online social media platforms or associating with paedophile hunting groups, identifying or confronting those suspected of sex offences.
They will appear in court again in April.