Hergott: Further reflection on creep catchers

Capital News columnist Paul Hergott still has second thoughts about potential injustice of social media lynchings.

Paul Hergott

Ingorance abounds.

I don’t intend to use that phrase with a “stupidity” connotation.

My declaration is the written version of a “selfie.”

Merriam-Webster online defines ignorance as “a lack of knowledge, understanding, or education.”

I certainly don’t lack education, as it’s the lack of knowledge and understanding I’m referring to.

My last column featured the creep catcher “sting” of a predatory adult who actively pursued sexualized communications and a meeting with someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl.

The “catcher,” Shoni, was a 31-year-old woman. She herself had been victimized as a 14-year-old.

The video is compelling. It wasn’t the “Yer done, bud” testosterone-laden spectacle I was expecting to see.

Shoni seemed genuinely interested in making a difference in the world by protecting other young girls from being victimized like she had been.

While she knew the posting of her video was going to cause devastation to the husband and father she was sitting across from, she also showed an interest in helping him understand the consequences of his actions and provided resources where he could get help.

I concluded that I was reluctant to offer any level of endorsement to the creep-catcher movement, because of obvious problems with unregulated, undisciplined vigilante cowboys sticking their noses in police business.

But still, I confessed to feeling a sense of security for the safety of my early-teen daughters, that Shoni is doing the work she is doing.

I am thankful to those who contacted me after reading my column, with efforts to improve my knowledge and understanding about the dark side of creep catchers.

The video I had seen is on one end of a dramatically broad spectrum. My eyes were opened to the opposite end.

A community support worker told me about a developmentally challenged client, living with fetal alcohol syndrome, who was devastated by a creep catcher “sting.”

Unlike the predator in the video I saw, her client wasn’t on the prowl for a sexual encounter with an under-aged girl. He was pursued by the “catcher” on an adult dating site.

He did meet with the catcher, who did the bait and switch thing, revealing that even though she was on an adult dating site, she was really under aged.

He was clear in the chat communications leading up to the meeting that there would be nothing sexual taking place.

There was absolutely nothing morally nor criminally wrong with this developmentally challenged fellow’s behaviour.

The face-to-face creep catcher confrontation, as well as being featured on social media and the creep catcher’s website were horribly unfair and destructive to him.

This was not an isolated event. I learned from someone else about another incredibly vulnerable victim of creep catchers, this time a situation of mistaken identity, who had already been suicidal before the sting that occurred within the last several months. She has since succeeded in taking her own life.

The public shaming of a perceived pedophile is a present day lynching.

A life is not taken in a literal sense, but a life can be destroyed, including to the point of a suicide.

My endorsement of creep catchers in my last column, albeit reluctant, was based on my ignorance about the horrible injustices that can result, just like the horrible injustices of historical lynchings that we now look back on with disgust.

Is there a place for creep catchers in our society? Vigilante lynching is not, and will never be, OK.

I am embarrassed that I had not seen the direct analogy to actually stringing someone up on a tree.

I am disappointed in myself that I had publicly endorsed such conduct.  Please accept my apology.

I do think that there is a place for passionate volunteers, like Shoni, looking to protect young girls from predators.

One way might be for police forces to train and make use of these incredible volunteer resources.

Another idea might be for the stings to continue, but without the public shaming element.

I welcome the opportunity to participate in the dialogue.

This column is intended to provide general information about injury claims.  It is not a substitute for retaining a lawyer to provide legal advice specifically pertaining to your case. Paul Hergott is a personal injury lawyer at Hergott Law in West Kelowna.

paul@hlaw.ca

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