A judge has refused to allow charges against a 48-year-old man arrested following a so-called paedophile hunter sting to proceed, despite the offences being fully admitted.

Adrian Robinson from Avondale Court, Ballina in County Mayo was accused of attempting to sexually communicate with a female child for his own gratification on January 19 and attempting to meet her with the intention to commit a sexual offence, after a period of grooming.

He appeared at Dungannon Magistrates Court where a police officer said he believed the charges could be connected, however a defence solicitor challenged this on the basis the offences allegedly occurred outside the jurisdiction in the Republic of Ireland.

The court heard Robinson was arrested “following a confrontation with a group of individuals who were involved in encouraging his attendance at a meeting point in Enniskillen Bus Station having travelled from his County Mayo home. This was on the pretext of meeting an adult female".

The paedophile hunter group videoed the confrontation during which Robinson fully admitted engaging online in an attempt to arrange sexual contact with an 11-year-old child.

Police believe the meeting with the adult female was “part of the grooming aspect".

The defence argued any alleged offending occurred in his client’s home through decoys, no child was involved.

He said: “The role of the adult female was to lure my client into Northern Ireland and there is no connection between her and the fake child. Effectively it was only through being encouraged to travel to Enniskillen that matters entered this (court) jurisdiction.”

The paedophile hunter group is based in England and communication allegedly took place for a planned meeting with a child in March.

When District Judge Michael Ranaghan enquired who Robinson believed he was communicating with the police officer replied: “He was interacting with the false profile of an 11-year-old girl set up by the group in England who passed the information to the Northern Ireland branch … The confrontation was live-streamed on Facebook.

"The defendant admitted trying to meet a child and being involved in that sort of behaviour. Admissions were made on camera and again in police custody. He admitted using Facebook Messenger and the communications were sexual in nature. There were many references to meeting and staying in a hotel for the purpose of sex.”

The officer said some communications to the decoy child contained images in which Robinson’s genitals are visible.

Judge Ranaghan asked if police sought pre-charge advice from the PPS, to which the officer replied: “Not that I’m aware of.”

Branding the situation a “muddle” the judge held: “The admissibility of the paedophile hunters footage would be very much in question. I accept the defendant travelled to Northern Ireland but we don’t have the basis on which he did. I don’t know what the connection is between the female and the alleged grooming of a child. There are admissions at interview but that relates to a meeting in England in March.”

After consideration he said: “It’s a confused picture to say the least. These are very serious charges and it’s up to police to convince me they can be connected but I am concerned that I cannot do so. Travelling to Enniskillen does appear to be a significant event but that was to meet an adult and I don’t know where she falls into the picture.”

Throwing out the charges he concluded: “The defendant shouldn’t believe this is the end of the matter but for now as far as I’m concerned, he is free to leave police custody.”