Creep Catchers – Vigilante Justice, Entrapment, and Committing Offences 

I recently wrote about entrapment and what counts as entrapment in traffic cases. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about entrapment as the Creep Catchers have bee present in several news stories.
 
It gets me wondering whether Creep Catchers cases may give rise to a defence of entrapment. I believe it might.
 
The theory behind entrapment is rooted in an abuse of process. Essentially, it is wrong for the state to coerce citizens into committing crimes, or to set out a plan by which they wind up committing an offence. As I described earlier, a morality test constitutes entrapment.
 
But where do groups like Creep Catchers fall on the issue?

Creep Catchers is a horrendous form of vigilante justice. I cannot in good conscience support what their groups do, despite the fact that I can acknowledge that what they do is for the good of the public and probably, for many involved, comes from a socially-minded motivation. The problem is that vigilante justice can have no place in our justice system. And when vigilante justice results in suicide, beatings, and public shaming it is disturbing. This is not an organization that is collecting evidence and providing it to police, but that is in it for entertainment by entrapment.
 
The police are actively involved in stings like those set up by Creep Catchers. They conduct the same operations, but they do them within the bounds of the law. And they are required to follow strict protocol when they do these stings so they do not cross into the territory of entrapment. There is a good discussion of this in a case called R. v. N.J.S., where the police were found to have conducted their investigation properly.
 
Creep Catchers do not receive training in avoiding entrapment and undue pressure on people to become involved in these situations. And I do not doubt that there are some overzealous people involved in the organization who are going beyond the bounds of what would otherwise be permissible and placing pressure on people. Just as I have no doubt there are people who are involved in the organization who are trying to act within the bounds of the law and protect children. But that is, ultimately, the job of the police.
 
Creep Catchers should be careful as child pornography offences in Canada are widely-defined, and their vigilante justice may actually be an offence under our child pornography laws. Here’s the definition of child pornography from the Criminal Code:
 
163.1 (1) In this section, child pornography means
(a) a photographic, film, video or other visual representation, whether or not it was made by electronic or mechanical means,
(i) that shows a person who is or is depicted as being under the age of eighteen years and is engaged in or is depicted as engaged in explicit sexual activity, or
(ii) the dominant characteristic of which is the depiction, for a sexual purpose, of a sexual organ or the anal region of a person under the age of eighteen years;
(b) any written material, visual representation or audio recording that advocates or counsels sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act;
(c) any written material whose dominant characteristic is the description, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act; or
(d) any audio recording that has as its dominant characteristic the description, presentation or representation, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act.
There are exceptions for police officers conducting investigations who commit criminal offences. So sexual photographs representing someone under 18 would not offend if the police were doing it. But if a private citizen is creating such photographs, technically they are creating child pornography. Similarly, the pretend sexual communication in writing is also technically child pornography. The sexual purpose of the Code is not limited to the person who is creating the material; rather, it is simply that the material is for a sexual purpose.

 
Because entrapment is rooted in this notion of an abuse of process, it is arguable that there is a form of entrapment when a private person performs an action on behalf of the state, particularly where it involves vigilante justice. If you search CanLII you will be hard-pressed to find a case where a vigilante secures a conviction on a serious offence. Rather, vigilantes often attract criminal charges against themselves and the courts deliver harsher sentences to deter this type of conduct.
 
Further, the police and the Crown are not entitled to rely on unlawfully obtained evidence to secure a conviction. This counts where private citizens are performing state functions, including law enforcement, and break the law to obtain evidence. Police cannot expect citizens to break into a suspected murderer’s house to steal the murder weapon if they are unable to get a warrant. It’s the same here. Where that evidence is obtained by the creation and use of child pornography and methods that would otherwise amount to entrapment were a police officer engaging in them, our justice system cries out for the evidence not to be relied on in court.
 
To do otherwise would encourage more people to engage in unlawful conduct to trap others into committing crimes, and would effectively eliminate law and order in our country. Policing is best left to the police, who are accountable and trained about how to avoid issues of entrapment. While they are not perfect, they are what we have in our free and democratic society and what we must rely on in order to protect our system of justice. The police play as important a role as the judge, the Crown prosecutors, and defence lawyers.
 
So while those who are searching out sexual relationships with the underage are certainly in the wrong, a Court might be inclined to stay the charges because of the serious concerns that arise from these Creep Catcher investigations.

14 thoughts on “Creep Catchers – Vigilante Justice, Entrapment, and Committing Offences ”

  1. I have no use for creep catchers. They take the law into there own hands and have no authority to do so. There are innocent people and families being humiliated from shaming. Even if these people that are wrong for doing what they done doesnt mean they should be bullied.They only do it for entertainment.

  2. As a Social Media professional, who has been fighting against the creep catchers use and abuse of Social Media in their modern version of a 17th Century Witch Hunt, I am VERY happy to see our legal professionals holding these vigilantes in the same regard.

    1. and, she’ll defend you if you’re ever accused of something by the police or other government agency. The crown attorney will lay the charges against you and try to convict you. Then the judge will weigh the evidence, and decide if you’re innocent or guilty. You’re welcome to move to another country where you have no rights to defend yourself if the police or government or other people accuse you of something.

  3. A well balanced and easy to understand article. The foundations for Peace and Justice was not built in our country through vigilante justice.
    It was well thought out, fought for and achieved with hard and intelligent work. Both offender and victim needs the support. Thank you

  4. The creep catchers are a prime example of what is wrong with society today.
    They lie and set people up.
    Then they attack and assault them.
    They even attacked a young mentally challenged guy.
    They do it because they are Bullies, and also go make money selling their stupid shirts etc.
    Friends and i have considered getting a bunch of us and answering their ads if we can find them.
    When they come out to assault the 1 guy we will level the playing field of their large group by many more of us coming out.
    Lets see how tough those bullies are when 9 of us who all fight competitively beat them down.
    it’s just defending our friend after all from a gang of thugs.

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  7. We live in an ivory tower and don’t really understand how dangerous crime is. I believe that the rule of law can restore peace, stability and respect in the world.

  8. As a retired Police officer, my thoughts on topic are this. If one of these cases ever did make it to court, the so called Creep Catchers would have a lot more to answer for than the person they framed.
    I can think of 26 laws they have broken, that would net each of them Prison time. These are the types who would not do well in Prison to say the least.
    Let the Police do the policing!

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