British Columbia

B.C. judge blasts Creep Catchers for 'repugnant' sting targeting developmentally disabled man

A Kamloops man with cognitive challenges was coaxed into luring a fictional child because of a "vainglorious" operation by the Creep Catchers, a B.C. judge wrote in a scathing assessment of the vigilante group.

Doug Fawcett of Kamloops receives conditional sentence following guilty plea

Doug Fawcett was targeted by the Creep Catchers in a February 2017 sting. (YouTube)

A Kamloops, B.C., man with cognitive challenges was coaxed into luring a fictional child because of a "vainglorious" operation by the Creep Catchers, a B.C. judge says in a scathing assessment of the vigilante group.

On Tuesday, Provincial Court Judge Stella Frame rejected the mandatory minimum jail sentence for Loyd Douglas George Fawcett, who pleaded guilty to one count of child luring following a February 2017 sting that has been viewed thousands of times on YouTube.

Frame said a year in jail would be "grossly disproportionate" for the developmentally disabled man, instead handing down a six-month conditional sentence followed by 24 months of probation.

She said a Creep Catchers operative named Chantelle Bradner essentially pushed Fawcett to commit a crime.

"It is very clear that the Creep Catchers are less interested in stopping an offence in progress than they are in self-aggrandizement," Frame wrote in her reasons for judgment.

"It is equally clear that the Creep Catchers are more interested in public shaming and the court of uninformed public opinion than they are in law enforcement, the rule of law, and the administration of justice — processes that have evolved over time through Parliament and the courts to protect the victims, the rights of the accused, the public and the innocent."

CBC News has reached out to a Creep Catchers representative for comment. The group, which has loosely affiliated chapters across B.C., has faced criticism over privacy concerns and allegations of violence against targets.

No crime without sting

In her 17-page decision, Frame variously describes the conduct of the Creep Catchers involved as "misguided and ill-plotted," "repugnant," "unethical," and "vainglorious."

According to the judgment, Fawcett can prepare basic meals and helps his mother with maintenance of her house, but has "deficits in several areas of cognitive functioning" and is unable to care for his teenage daughter.

The judge points out that Fawcett was originally seeking adult companionship on an adult dating app when he encountered a fake profile for a 19-year-old that included a photo of an adult woman.

It was only after Fawcett began communicating with the imaginary girl that she revealed she was 12 years old.

"Chantelle Bradner essentially induced Mr. Fawcett into committing an offence that had not occurred to him to engage in. Absent the vigilante actions of Ms. Bradner and the Creep Catchers, it would not have happened. There is no indication that he has any of the indicia of paedophilia," Frame wrote.

Fawcett was sentenced this week in Kamloops provincial court to a six-month conditional sentence followed by 24 months of probation.

Nonetheless, Fawcett continued to communicate with the fictional 12-year-old even after learning her age, sending her graphic sexual messages and even suggesting he'd like to marry her. He also arranged to meet her, which is when he was caught on camera by the Creep Catchers.

"The nature of the offence and the circumstances of this case are very serious," the judge said.

"Even when his cognitive challenges and naiveté are taken into account, there are still elements of subterfuge and grooming that are troubling."

But she also pointed out that the actions of the Creep Catchers could have put Fawcett in serious danger, and suggested they amount to obstruction of justice.

Bradner informed police she had text messages and video from the operation on Feb. 3, 2017, but didn't send them for 20 days, according to the court decision. In the meantime, all that evidence had been posted online, including Fawcett's identification and enough information about his vehicle that viewers could have tracked down his address and phone number, the judge said.

"The danger is not only the harm that can come to a person through unproven accusations but the risk that this activity will generate more vigilante justice," Frame wrote.

'I thought I was doing the right thing'

Fawcett's case isn't the only time B.C. Creep Catchers have been accused of unfairly targeting people with developmental challenges.

The same month that Fawcett was caught on video in Kamloops, a cognitively impaired 21-year-old Burnaby man was ambushed by the group outside his workplace, and videos of the encounter were posted online.

Like Fawcett, he was approached online by a woman whose profile said she was 19, but she later revealed herself to be 14.

"I thought I was doing the right thing in making a friend," he told CBC News two years ago.

Facebook links to the video were pulled down shortly after CBC News reported on the story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay is a B.C. journalist with a focus on the courts, health, science and social justice issues. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.

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