The leader of a paedophile hunter group accused of falsely imprisoning men he suspected of being sex offenders told a jury that police lacked resources to tackle online grooming.
Phillip Hoban told Leeds Crown Court he wished paedophile hunter groups could be allowed to work with police to catch potential abusers rather than being told to stop their activities.
Six members of Leeds-based Predator Exposure are on trial accused of false imprisonment and assault offences over claims they illegally detained men in two separate incidents.
Hoban gave evidence before jurors in which he denied the charges against him.
During cross-examination, prosecutor Tom Storey asked Hoban: "Do you agree with the principle that our courts adopt, that people should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty?"
Hoban replied: “It depends sir. I don’t know, it depends. Obviously the people who we catch, we have got all the evidence there so I believe they are guilty.”
Mr Storey asked: “Do you think you should be regarded as innocent until you are found guilty of any offence?"
The defendant replied: “I believe I am innocent sir.”
The prosecutor asked: “Is it right that you might have double standards here Mr Hoban?”
Hoban replied: “No, I am just going on the evidence that’s there, sir.
“All I’m doing sir, is trying to protect our kids.”
Hoban described how work by members of his group had led to the exposure of a paedophile ring.
He also said the group had reported another man and police went on to find images of him raping a 14 year old girl.
Mr Storey asked Hoban: “You don’t like the term ‘vigilante’ do you?"
Hoban said: “People presume vigilantes go out with baseball bats and smash windows. We don’t do that. We safeguard these people until the police come.”
The prosecutor asked Hoban if the abuse he directed to the men he confronted on camera could be regarded as “safeguarding”.
Hoban said: “The abuse I put to them is nothing compared to the abuse they are giving our children.”
The defendant went on to explain that confrontations between paedophile hunter groups and suspected sex offenders was usually live-streamed to protect both parties involved.
Hoban said members of his group had been threatened with a shotgun on a previous occasion.
He also said he knew a member of another paedophile group having his finger bitten off as he confronted another man.
Hoban said: “I wish we did not have to do what we are doing. Unfortunately, the police do not have the resources to do what we are doing.”
Mr Storey asked Hoban: “This isn’t about justice is it? It’s about exposing people.”
Hoban said: “It’s about justice, sir.”
Hoban continued: “I wish I could just pass the (online) chat logs to the police and spend time with my family.
“I wish there was a way we could work with the police and give them the chat logs.
"But unfortunately, the police do not act on it straight away.”
Hoban confirmed he was a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter when asked by the prosecutor.
He said: “Just because I am in Mixed Martial Arts I don’t go to fight people.
“I prefer to do that in the cage, sir.
“I am not a violent man outside the cage.”
Mr Storey asked Hoban: “Why don’t you just let the police do their job?”
Hoban replied: “The police don’t do their job, sir.
“So that’s why we do what we do.”
“These things need to be dealt with straight away.
“We can’t be waiting eight months or six months. They need dealing with straight away.”
The six defendants on trial are:
Phillip Hoban, 43, of Northcote Terrace, Beeston. Pleads not guilty to two charges of false imprisonment and one of assault.
Christine James-Roberts, 60, of Queenswood Drive, Headingley, Pleads not guilty to one charge of false imprisonment.
Kelly Meadows, 40, of Reynel Drive, Leeds. Pleads not guilty to two charges of false imprisonment.
Jordan McDonald, 19, of Tong Way, Farnley. Pleads not guilty to two charges of false imprisonment and one of assault.
Jordan Plain, 26, of Tong Road, Farnley. Pleads not guilty to one charge of false imprisonment and one of assault.
Dean Walls, 52, of Saxton Road, Moortown. Pleads not guilty to one charge of false imprisonment and one of assault.
The trial continues.