Former B.C. sheriff faces charges after another vigilante sting targeting online predators
A growing trend of vigilante stings has resulted in charges against a former deputy sheriff in British Columbia just days after a Mountie faced similar allegations.
The B.C. Criminal Justice Branch announced Tuesday that Kevin Johnston, who worked in Kamloops, has been charged with three counts of communicating with an underage person for a sexual offence and one count of invitation to sexual touching.
An unnamed RCMP officer in Surrey was arrested last week and is being investigated for child luring and sexual exploitation after the vigilante group Creep Catchers released video that it claimed was a confrontation with a man who thought he was meeting an underage girl.
Justice branch spokesman Dan McLaughlin confirmed that both men came to the attention of police through separate vigilante groups.
“There are organizations that are out there providing opportunities for people to communicate with people they believe to be underage females in these instances and they seem to have been caught by those organizations.”
None of the allegations against the two men has been proven in court.
In the latest allegations, media reports said a group called Creep Hunters in Kelowna posted a video on Facebook that the group said showed a confrontation with Johnston after he allegedly tried to initiate a relationship with an underage girl.
The group’s website was taken down on Tuesday, but some of the video was still available and had been shared on Facebook.
In British Columbia, Crown prosecutors decide if charges should be laid after police present them with a file of evidence.
McLaughlin said this case is no different in that police will investigate and assess the strength of the case.
“All viable defences are considered when we’re assessing the materials that are provided to us,” he said.
“Part of that process would be considering whether there are charter issues that are raised by the manner in which the evidence was collected.”
McLaughlin said if Crown lawyers are not satisfied of a substantial likelihood of conviction, charges won’t proceed, the same as in any other case.
He couldn’t say if the criminal justice branch would reconsider how it evaluates evidence in light of the recent vigilante stings.
“If there’s an area that we think is lacking in our policies then we take steps to do that,” he said.
“As long as we’re being provided with evidence which we feel meets that standards that we must apply … then we’ll deal with the evidence that investigative agencies provide to us.”
The branch said Johnston is no longer employed as a court sheriff. His next court appearance is set for Oct. 20.
The unnamed Mountie allegedly confronted by a vigilante group has been suspended from the force. The criminal justice branch said it is assessing possible charges against the officer, and his name won’t be released until he is officially charged.
RCMP’s assistant commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr told reporters last week that police were investigating the man on allegations of child luring and sexual exploitation.
She said the allegations are egregious and not in keeping with what the RCMP expects of its employees.
The officer’s next court appearance is set for Oct. 19.