Vigilante justice not worth the risk, says Winnipeg lawyer

. File / Global News

If you get robbed, don’t chase the suspect.

That’s advice from the RCMP, who are discouraging Manitobans from vigilante activity following a series of events in Headingley, including one that resulted in a car chase and crash.

“While we understand that the theft of personal property is extremely frustrating, we cannot stress enough the danger to you and others of chasing suspects and engaging in this high-risk activity,” said Sgt. Paul Manaigre.

“Chasing vehicles could have very serious consequences and places you and other other members of the public at risk.

“If confronted, these individuals may also use violence to evade capture and there is always a possibility that they’re armed.”

RCMP said anyone who witnesses a crime should call police from a safe distance away and follow the directions the operator gives them to stay safe.

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READ MORE: “Use lethal force if necessary,” message to Manitoba radio station staff conducting “armed vigilante” patrols

Lawyer Robert Tapper
Lawyer Robert Tapper Tapper Cuddy LLP

Winnipeg lawyer Robert Tapper told 680 CJOB that in addition to the physical dangers, there’s also the very real threat of getting into legal trouble when attempting a citizen’s arrest.

“There’s any number of ways you’re going to get in trouble and very few that you won’t,” he said.

“Let’s say you do catch them and tackle them and they go to the ground, and they hit their head and they have a spinal cord injury or a brain injury. You’ve got a lawsuit. The person has no option but to sue.”

Tapper said if, for example, you’re tackling a suspect who has robbed your house, it’s unlikely your house insurance company will cover you for that lawsuit because you’ve committed a criminal offence yourself.

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“There’s just no way in the world that a citizen should attempt this,” he said.

“Taking into account the person committing this theft is more likely than not a meth-fueled yahoo, and will likely be carrying a knife – or worse, a gun – your best intentions go right into the garbage can at that point.

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“The police are under rigorous training for proportionality in an arrest, and if you’re attempting a citizens arrest, there are so many complications.”

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