Canadian law enforcement agencies are calling on a group of vigilante pedophile hunters to let police investigate potential criminal cases, after Okanagan-area group “Creep Hunters” publicly identified a B.C. sheriff who arranged to meet with someone posing as a 14-year-old girl.
Creep Hunters – which has been operating in the Okanagan area over the last few months – aims to lure men who are looking for sexual relationships with underage girls.
One member of the group pretends to be the underage girl and waits for older men to engage in online conversations. Once a meeting is arranged, two male members of the group approach the suspect, accusing him of trying to lure a minor, and record the exchange.
They then upload the footage online.
WATCH: Creep Hunters is not the first group to try and lure men.
However, the group’s latest catch attracted a lot of attention due to allegations the man they were talking to was a B.C. sheriff.
“The man that we caught is a sheriff. He sent pictures, two pictures of himself in his uniform,” said “Stef,” who played the role of a 14-year-old girl for Creep Hunters.
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The Ministry of Justice confirmed Tuesday it is aware of the allegations regarding the sheriff and confirmed that the employee is on leave pending further investigation.
According to Cpl. Dan Moskaluk, the RCMP was also made aware of the incident and is currently investigating.
But Moskaluk stressed that this type of investigation should be left to police officers.
“In regard to monitoring criminal activities online, this work should be left to police officers who can do this in a controlled environment. This way evidence can be obtained to support charges, which is the best way to get dangerous offenders off our streets,” Moskaluk told Global News.
“We are always concerned when people decide to bypass law enforcement and take matters into their own hands. When that happens there is a risk that investigations can be jeopardized and key evidence can be lost.”
Could criminal charges be laid if police didn’t do the work?
Criminal defence experts, however, point out that the suspect in question could be charged for any crimes committed based on the evidence Creep Hunters collected.
According to Michael Lacey, vice president of the Criminal Lawyers Association, if a group of civilians not acting under police direction effectively entrapped someone in an alleged scheme to lure a minor, criminal charges could potentially stick.
“When private citizens do things like this the entrapment law doesn’t apply,” said Michael Lacey, vice president of the Criminal Lawyers Association. “If it was a police officer or someone operating under police association did this it might apply.”
Entrapment usually occurs when police lure someone into committing a crime under their watch – just like how Creep Hunters aims to lure potential criminals.
However, there are entrapment laws in Canada that limit how police can use this technique.
In July, a couple found guilty of plotting to blow up the B.C. Legislature on Canada Day three years ago were released from prison, after a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled the RCMP entrapped them.
During the trial, the defence argued John Nuttall and Amanda Korody would not have committed the acts if it were not for the encouragement of undercover police officers working the case. The judge added the undercover RCMP officer became a lifeline to Nuttall and Korody and that the officer isolated them.
The case was the first in Canada to use the legal defence of entrapment successfully in a terrorism case.