How do you define contempt?

Here are some recent quotes from the leader of the Surrey Creep Catchers (SCC), following the order from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia, regarding the requirement to destroy all material relating to 2 complainants that were former ‘catches’ of the SCC;

“Dipshit Commissioner… Fucking idiot.  You ain’t shit…”  

“Drew Mcskinner [referring to Privacy Commissioner Drew McArthur] can throw his weight around all he wants…… He’s just a small fry trying to super size his shit. Buddy your [sic] a mcnugget. You have no power over me…”

“My name is Ryan Laforge and the OIPC CAN SUCK IT”

That Ryan LaForge would not obey an order from the Privacy Commissioner was a foregone conclusion.  The question was really whether he would do it loudly and belligerently enough to attract the attention of the Attorney General of British Columbia.  Because the AG can ask the Supreme Court for an order that he (LaForge) and the other members of the SCC obey the Privacy Commissioner’s order, and more generally, that they obey the PIPA law.  And if they don’t, it is criminal contempt, not civil.  So his own words might have changed his prospects from a hefty fine somewhere down the road (which of course he’d also ignore) to the possibility of incarceration, which could happen within a matter of days, once the AG decides to act.

So in the coming week or so, look for news that the Attorney General’s patience with Mr.LaForge’s little tantrum has ended, and he’s heading for a little ‘quiet time’ in his ‘thinking corner’.

If you want to encourage the Attorney General to act, drop him a note at JAG.Minister@gov.bc.ca.

Me? I’m making popcorn, because this will be very interesting, indeed.

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The Regina Leader – September 2017

Facebook live video shows fight between Regina ‘creep catcher’ and unidentified man

The Abbotsford News – August 2017

The truth about online vigilante group Creep Catchers: Part One

Edmonton Journal – July 2017

Saskatchewan Creep Catcher charged for criminal harassment in Lloydminster

National Post – July 2017

Vigilante group Creep Catcher violates privacy of their targets, B.C. watchdog rules

VICE.COM – May 2017

Creep Catchers Threw Themselves a Fundraiser and It Was a Cult-like Spectacle

The Globe and Mail – May 2017

Two members of Surrey Creep Catchers face assault charges: RCMP


VICE.COM – January 2017

The Rise of Creep Catchers, Canada’s Vigilante Pedophile Hunters

Ottawa Citizen – September 2016

Creep Catchers: UBC law professor warns of vigilantism’s dangers

Edmonton Journal – April 2016

Edmonton creep catchers harm investigations into online child luring, police say

The Saskatoon StarPhoenix – July 2016

Column: There’s something creepy about vigilante Creep Catchers, writes John Gormley

The Cloverdale Reporter – November 2016

Help or harm? Lawyers fear Creep Catchers prioritize attention over due process

Kayla Lee – Criminal Lawyer – October 2016

Creep Catchers – Vigilante Justice, Entrapment, and Committing Offences

Radio

News 1130 – February 2017

Surrey Creep Catchers investigation could be the end: lawyer


CKNW News Talk 980 – February 2017

B.C. privacy watchdog investigating Surrey Creep Catchers following complaint

CKNW News Talk 980 – October 2016

Surrey Creep Catchers wrongly identifies another man in viral video

CKNW News Talk 980

Alberta Creep Catchers member charged with criminal harassment

News 1130

Getting caught on Creep Catchers jeopardizes your job, even in the absence of charges

 630 CHED – Edmotnon -September 2016

Vigilante “creep catchers” target wrong man in Calgary

Privacy Law Guide for Creep Catchers Groups

 

By Craig E .Jones, Q.C.

What is PIPA?

Originally there was a law called the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA).  That Act provided for the protection of information collected by government, as well as ‘quasi governmental’ entitles like universities and Crown Corporations.  It also provides a process whereby members of the public can make “freedom of information requests” to gain access to government documents.

The more recent  Personal Information and Protection of Privacy Act (PIPA) extends privacy protection into the private sector.  PIPA governs the collection, use and dissemination of “personal information” by organizations beyond government.  It dictates what can be done with personal information by companies as well as unincorporated associations such as unions, sports teams, societies, and clubs.  Unlike FOIPPA, where the focus is on access to information as well as protection of privacy, PIPA is mainly directed at regulating the gathering, use, and release of personal information by private groups. A full text of the statute is available online: http://www.bclaws.ca/EPLibraries/bclaws_new/document/ID/freeside/00_03063_01

Why is my Creep Catchers Group Subject to PIPA?

Creep catchers groups are subject to PIPA because they are “unincorporated associations”, which are “organizations” under the Act.  So as soon as the group gathers personal information, it must conform with the processes and restrictions of PIPA.  This is why the Erb case is important: the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has decided, at least on preliminary review, that Surrey Creep Catcher is an “organization”.  They are now going to determine whether the SCC group has been operating in violation of the laws in the way it has gathered, used or disseminated personal information.

What is “Personal Information” under PIPA?

“Personal Information” includes almost any information connected to an individual.  So, let’s say in response to a CC ad, someone reveals something about themselves (where they live, their name, age, email address, hobbies and interests, etc), then that group has just “collected” “personal information” as it is understood in the Act.

Prior decisions have also established that pictures and video recordings, even if taken in “public” places, also constitute “personal information” and are protected.

There is a general exemption under PIPA for information that I collected by private individuals for their own personal or domestic purposes.  But as soon as an individual collects information for any other purpose, they become an “organization” subject to PIPA.

What are the Relevant Provisions for Creep Catchers?

The basic rule under PIPA is that organizations cannot collect, use or disseminate personal information without consent of the individuals involved.  Consent must be free and “informed”.  PIPA makes it clear that if information is gathered by deceit then there is no consent.  So if a CC group receives responses from online interlocutors who think they are talking to a female ‘lure’ (whether of age of not), they are gathering information without consent.  This gathering includes the confrontational videos made by groups.

The PIPA, however places many other obligations on an “organization”.  It must, for instance, put in place a process for persons to register complaints or objections about the collection, use or release of the personal information it possesses.  It must also provide a mechanism to challenge those kind of decisions, and designate an officer for these purposes. The Act sets out strict timelines for response to requests.

What are the Powers of the Commission?

Under the PIPA, the Commission has broad authority to conduct investigations, hold hearings, compel testimony, and make orders including for fines or the destruction of “personal information” in its possession.  Refusing to cooperate or obstructing an investigation can lead to contempt proceedings enforced through the B.C. Supreme Court and other sanctions.

But… How Come Cops can Use “Stings”?

There are specific exemptions under PIPA and at common law to allow for legitimate collection of information in the course of criminal or other investigations.

What are the Penalties for Not Complying?

PIPA provides for fines up to $10,000 for individuals and $100,000 for groups, for every separate breach.  It also provides for civil lawsuits if the Act is breached.  There is also a stand-alone tort of invasion of privacy under the BC Privacy Act.  Under that Act, a claim can be brought even if there is no proof of damage arising from the breach.

So Aren’t I Immune if I have No Money?

You may never have to pay a fine if you never have any money. However, if you are subject to an order that becomes a judgment debt, you may face seizure of your personal assets, including real estate, and garnishing of any bank accounts or wages from your employer.  Bankruptcy can relieve you of some debts, including judgment debts, but does not apply to relieve you of the consequences of deliberate or malicious action. So the short answer is, you might be “immune” for the moment, but five or ten years down the road you might find your bank account empty or your home put up for auction.

By not following and understanding the Provincial and Federal Privacy Acts, you run the risk of ending up in a situation similar to that of Ryan LaForge and the Surrey Creep Catcher outfit.

Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (BC)
Order P17-03; Surrey Creep Catcher
https://www.oipc.bc.ca/orders/2060

A Creep Catchers Q&A

by Craig E Jones, Q.C., Professor of Law.

Q: Why are you opposed to Creep Catchers?

A: I’ve been observing the online growth of the Creep Catchers movement and I oppose it for many reasons. But most fundamentally, I think it is dangerous to have entertainment-based law enforcement, driven by competition for attention and viewership. We have seen Surrey Creep Catchers, for instance, go from a few discrete “sting” operations to its present state, where it taunts an uncritical audience of thousands (“Who wants a live catch?”), and tries to constantly outdo itself (and competing CC groups) with the number of “catches”. Couple this with its adoption of the fundamentally fascist tactic of excluding critical or reluctant voices by branding critics as “pedo lovers”, its attempts at commercialization through online advertising and T-shirt sales, and so on, and you have a bad situation. It’s becoming a machine that will feed its audiences craving with more and more “blasts”, and it won’t care if the “targets” are guilty or innocent. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing now.
That’s my basic philosophical objection. Operationally, I worry about their education, training and intelligence, which all seem to be lacking (I’m trying not to be unkind, but many seem to be essentially unemployable criminals who can barely craft a coherent sentence), and the mesmerized adoration of their followers. I dislike the Creep Catchers methods, which involve the systematic offences against many innocent people, and the occasionally sadistic glee that characterizes their “operations”.

Q: Is it because you’re a goof and a creep and a pedophile who’s afraid he’s going to be caught?

A: This is kind of like saying that if you’re opposed to capital punishment for rapists, then you must be a rapist, or at least pro-rape. I’m the father of two kids aged 9 and 13. I care a lot about what happens to them, and I also care a lot about the kind of world that they’re growing up to live in. I don’t want that to be the Creep Catchers world. Just because we disagree about the Creep Catchers doesn’t mean we disagree about child sexual abuse. Every right-thinking parent is terrified by the thought of a child becoming the victim of a predator. But we can’t let that primal fear be cynically exploited by online entertainers, and lead us to sacrifice our most basic morals and principles.

Q: What do you mean that the Catchers commit “offenses against many innocent people”? Don’t the “creeps” get what they deserve?

A: Most of the people initially sucked into CC stings aren’t “creeps” – they’re adults looking to meet other adults on dating sites. When the Catchers place an ad, they pretend to be an adult woman. Many people respond to that ad, in good faith, and there’s a conversation – maybe an hour, maybe weeks or months. At some point the CC ‘drop the age bomb’ and claim to (now) be an underage girl. Most men then terminate the conversation, but not before the CC have harvested their personal information using online deception, tricked them into revealing often intimate details about their lives, and wasted their time. This is an offence under the Personal Information Protection Act, and a civil wrong under the Privacy Act. And it’s also just plain wrong – people have a right to use dating sites without being subject to amateur virtue tests operated by some hopped-up slob hovering over a computer screen in some Surrey basement. Creep catchers may enjoy their little ‘cloak and dagger’ ‘cat and mouse’ game, but they have no right to include others in it against their will.

Q: OK, but the ones they do catch aren’t innocent, right?

A: Depends on what you mean by “innocent”. From the CC videos and chats I’ve seen, I would say that many of the “blasted” aren’t “guilty” in the criminal sense, although of course some of them are. But the CC don’t set their threshold at criminal guilt: they have a “moral bright line” that says anyone who will agree to meet with an underage person is a pedophile. I personally question this threshold, because I can conceive of many reasons adults and teenagers can legitimately and innocently talk with each other. It worries me that CC apparently can’t believe that a 14 or 15 year old is anything but a sexual object. But really, that’s something about which reasonable people can disagree. If the CC simply reported what people did (“Target X agreed to meet a 15 year old for coffee and discuss art”), that would be one thing, but their obsession with underage sex makes them leap to the further conclusion: (“Target x agreed to meet a 15 year old for coffee and discuss art, therefore he is a pedophile, child molester, and deserves to have his life ruined”).

Occasionally they go much further. When Sean Smith posted an online video in which he criticized the CC groups, Ryan LaForge, SCC President, made a number of posts identifying Smith as a pedophile. Enthusiastic followers uncritically believe what Ryan LaForge says, so they went to war against Smith. One of them even posted a photo of Smith’s elderly mother, because, he explained, Smith’s actions must have “repercussions”. There’s plenty of other examples. In one SCC video, a “target” is chased to a police station. When the cop treats the CC group with what seemed to supporters to be rudeness, the mob says “he must be a pedophile too”, and so he becomes the “pedo cop” or the “goof cop”. There are dozens of examples. So on the ‘threshold of guilt’ question, we’ve now gone from definition A (people who try to arrange sex with a minor), to include B (people who meet with a minor for any reason) and now C (people who don’t enthusiastically support Creep Catchers). When you combine this “threshold” expansion with the CC need to maintain support through volume of “catches”, this becomes a greater and greater problem.

Q: So what are people supposed to do with the justice system failing them so badly?

A: Well to start with, I question the premise. Most people who talk about the failure of the justice system have no data to back that up – it’s just an impression that they have from TV and the internet. What they have is anecdotes to indicate that, despite all the police’s efforts, child sexual predation still occurs. That is the same of course for most things in life. Despite regulators’ efforts to demand safer cars, people are still killed in accidents. My own impression is that Canada does a very good job at investigating criminals and prosecuting crime, including internet luring. But we can’t be willing to allow groups to commit crimes, abuse rights, and basically do anything they want as long as a single child predator walks the streets, on the excuse that “at least they’re trying to help kids”.

But the question was, what can people do? Honestly, if you want to obsess over this aspect of child safety (sexual predation), focus on the real source – 90% or more – of the danger. Not online predators or other strangers, but family, friends, and other people who interact with kids in person. That’s where almost all of the abuse occurs. Second, to cover off the (mercifully unlikely) possibility of online predation, educate your kids, and kids generally, about the dangers and how to avoid them. CC’s time could be far more usefully employed in these areas, but it makes for poor TV, and investigations and education are hard. Their response is, of course, “well, you focus on those areas. I’m doing this”. Sure OK, but you asked.