Charges against three men accused of child luring via the Internet are the result of the police investigation into “super-hero” stings by Chilliwack caped crusaders last year.
But the outing of suspected sex predators by civilian vigilantes — whether dressed as Batman or not — isn’t something the RCMP wants to encourage.
“It’s not something we condone,” Cpl. Tammy Hollingsworth said Friday.
Last week, a similar charge was stayed against a man the caped crusaders believed they had lured to Chilliwack with promises of sex with a 15-year-old girl.
Hollingsworth said she could not comment on that case, but a Crown prosecutor told The Progress Friday that the charge was dropped because a conviction was unlikely based on the evidence.
“In a nutshell, the evidence we had did not leave us with a substantial likelihood of conviction,” said Andrea Ormiston. A likelihood of conviction is one of the standards the Crown must meet before proceeding with a criminal prosecution.
Ormiston was unable to comment publicly on why the evidence was deemed insufficient, or if it had been tainted by anything done by the young crusaders.
The Chilliwack youths, one of them portraying a 15-year-old girl online, were setting up meetings for sex with adult men online and then, dressed as Batman or the Flash, confronting the men and posting the video-taped results on a YouTube site called To Troll A Predator.
“We understand that the males involved had good intentions, but it can be challenging even for trained police officers to properly gather evidence in such a way that suspects can be charged,” Hollingsworth said a Friday news release.
“And significantly,” she added, “the males put themselves and other members of the public at risk by engaging in this type of activity, and that is never a good thing.”
Hollingsworth said the news release was intended to confirm the charges, which have already been laid, stemmed from the police investigation sparked by actions of the Chilliwack youths.
The three men charged are Andrew Karl Westerberg, 24, of Abbotsford; Todd Michael Paice, 48, of Chilliwack; and Kevin Robert Gill, 36, also of Chilliwack.
Paice was a public school teacher in Chilliwack until his February arrest and subsequent suspension by the school district. His next court appearance is scheduled for Monday in Chilliwack. Gill returns to court June 26 and Westerberg on July 16, both in Chilliwack.