The controversial Metro Vancouver vigilante group that claims to out child sexual predators alleges that it’s being ordered to destroy evidence that could help convict pedophiles.
Surrey Creep Catchers (SCC) has filed a petition with the BC Supreme Court arguing that B.C.’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OPIC) overstepped its bounds with an order issued last month.
That directive related to material posted online about two men, who complained to the privacy watchdog after being subjects of the group’s stings.
The commissioner ordered the group to rid itself of chat logs and video footage related to the stings in question.
In the court filing, Creep Catchers founder Ryan Laforge claimed the group is “an important grass roots citizens movement to ensure children are safe from sexual interference, exploitation and abuse,” and that it is engaged in investigative journalism.
It claims that the group meets with people in a public setting, where individuals have no expectation of privacy. It further claims that the subjects of its stings had initiated contact with decoys they believed to be minors.
“The context makes it clear that the subject’s true intent is to eventually engage in sexual activity with a minor,” it reads. “There is no expectation of privacy by an individual committing or about to commit a criminal offence.”
The filing goes on to say that the SCC has provided valuable information to police which has led to several charges, and at least one conviction.
“Ordering Surrey Creep Catcher to destroy the chat logs and video evidence in these matters would amount to the destruction of evidence of potential criminal activity and is in itself an offence under the [Criminal Code of Canada,” adds the filing.
“Even though the privacy commission is asking for this, I’m still turning over evidence and being asked for evidence from the police,” Laforge said on Friday.
Sun, Oct 2: Darrell Berekoff says Surrey Creep Catchers ruined his reputation by posting his picture on their website suggesting he might be a pedophile.
“It’s one thing to argue over taxes, bus fares, whatever. It’s another for child safety. This is our children we’re talking about here,” he added.
Back in July, the OIPC gave the SCC 30 days to delete the material related to the two men, after finding that the group’s tactics — including misrepresenting itself in online communications and live streaming stings without consent — violate B.C.’s Personal Information and Protection Act.
The OIPC also rejected the vigilante group’s assertion that it was conducting journalism.
The OIPC report contained several disturbing details, including that the group had made false claims online that one of the complainants had “committed a crime by attempting to lure and meet with a minor for sexual purposes.”
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The report stated that the man’s chat logs, including personal information such as his name, age, telephone number, email address, occupation, and physical description, were posted online.
It also ruled that another complainant, who has a cognitive impairment, was told he was meeting a 20-year-old who then changed their story to say they were 14.
The complainant fled when Creep Catcher confronted him with livestreaming cameras. The group pursued him, and he was apparently struck by a vehicle.
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The OIPC said that Surrey Creep Catcher could face fines or police action if it fails to remove and destroy any videos, pictures, or comments from websites or social media related to the two complainants.
Reached on Friday, the OIPC said it has no comment on Surrey Creep Catcher’s latest petition.
It’s not the only legal challenge the group is fighting.
Laforge is currently being sued for defamation by a man who claimed that the group falsely accused him of being a pedophile, in postings that were widely circulated on social media.
He is also facing charges of assault and uttering threats in relation to two separate stings earlier this year