Former Surrey RCMP Constable Dario Devic pleaded guilty to breach of trust by a police officer in Surrey Provincial Court this morning (Aug. 30) after he was the target of a Surrey Creep Catcher sting in 2016.
Devic was arrested on Sept. 9, 2016 after Creep Catcher Surrey, a citizen group that aims to weed out “potential predators” and “blast” them in social media, did a sting outside Surrey’s City Centre Mall.
Devic was suspended from duty and was originally charged with child luring and breach of trust by a public officer. The Crown dropped the breach of trust charge in October, 2016, but that charge was approved once more on Aug. 22, 2018.
During the 2016 sting, a woman working with Creep Catcher Surrey allegedly posed as a 15-year-old girl and communicated with the officer online after posting an ad on Craigslist. A meeting was set up outside the Boston Pizza and Creep Catcher Surrey president Ryan LaForge and his crew live-streamed the sting.
Earlier this year, Devic was discharged from the RCMP after his actions were found to be “not in keeping with what we expect from our employees.”
“He is no longer a member,” BC RCMP Staff Sergeant Annie Linteau told the Now-Leader in an email on Aug. 30.
“Given he is no longer a serving member there are no other RCMP internal processes underway,” she said, noting the RCMP had previously launched an investigation parallel to the criminal investigation, which has since been closed.
Dario Devic’s lawyer Rishi Gill speaks outside court about the #surreybc Mountie’s guilty plea today, to breach of trust of a police officer after a Creep Catchers sting in 2016. Defence expects the child luring charge to be formally stayed at sentencing. #surreybc pic.twitter.com/4lR4r4bS2q
— Surrey Now-Leader (@SurreyNowLeader) August 30, 2018
Outside the courtroom on Thursday morning, defence lawyer Rishi Gill said Devic would not admit to any sexual offences and has always been prepared to fight the child luring charge “tooth and nail.”
“In no way was he someone who was a sexual deviant,” Gill stated.
“Mr. Devic was never prepared to admit that there was any type of improper sexual intent on his part, and it will come out in the sentencing that you’ve got what are, quite frankly, bad actors in the Creep Catchers, moving forward, who really have destroyed someone’s career,” Gill said.
Elaborating on Creep Catchers, which he called a “cyber vigilante organization,” Gill said he thinks it’s “it’s highly inappropriate for citizens, especially these types of citizens who themselves have been charged and plead guilty to criminal offences, for them to go out there and act, really, as vigilantes, when they’re not trained police officers, when they’re not individuals who have been able to deal with the norms of society, for them to become somehow the judge, jury and executioner of matters, that’s completely inappropriate.”
Gill said this is “not, really, how we as Canadians should be dealing with the justice system.”
The individual exchanging emails with Devic represented themselves to be an adult, according to Gill.
“The pictures they gave were not some young girl in pig tails, they were a relatively mature woman. We think the pictures look to be in the mid-20s, to mid-30s. On that basis, Mr. Devic, because of some issues that were in his marriage at the time pursued an inappropriate relationship,” said Gill. “He’s not going to be someone’s who’s required to go on the sex offenders register. He’s not somebody who will be considered a sex offender, he’s somebody who while he was engaged in his duties as a police officer, acted inappropriately. It’s a shame that it’s come to this and he accepts responsibility.”
“Not a hint of any guilty plea to a sexual offence, that’s not happening,” he added. “The Crown has decided, properly, not to pursue the sexual luring charges. I think that tells you a lot.”
Gill said Devic never expects to work as a police officer again.
“Mr. Devic’s days as a police officer are most likely over,” he said. “He accepts that his career in law enforcement is over.”
In court on Thursday morning, Gill said he plans to submit a psychological report, adding that Devic has received “intensive psychotherapy” since the incident, along with his wife.
Devic’s sentencing date is set for Sept. 11 but Gill said he would be “very surprised if a judge in a case like this would give a decision off the bench. I would anticipate he would listen to arguments and most likely reserve. I don’t know how long it will take.”
Gill added that sentencing for this charge can vary from a discharge, up to jail time.
“I think our understanding is Crown is not seeking a formal jail sentence,” said Gill. “They may be seeking a conditional sentence order, we may be seeking something lower. We’ll have to just deal with that at sentencing.”
Asked to respond to Gill’s comments about his Surrey Creep Catchers group, Ryan LaForge laughed.
“My mom taught me if I don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” he said. “But I think his comments are unprofessional. I get that it’s his job to defend his client…. but to say that we as Canadians, shouldn’t deal with the justice system, to say that about people who have been charged and convicted of crimes before, that’s like saying someone who was charged with jaywalking shouldn’t be allowed to witness and report crime.”
He added: “There wouldn’t have even been a case if it wasn’t for us.”
LaForge acknowledged the group’s evidence isn’t professionally gathered, but said when police investigate for similar crimes, the end result in the justice system is often the same.
“Every once in a while there’s a really bad one, they end up spending a year in jail, but the majority of sexual predators are getting slaps on the wrist,” he said.
LaForge said he wants to push forward in efforts to have laws changed, to create minimum sentencing for those convicted in sex assaults and sexual crimes against children.
“One day enough’s going to be enough. I don’t know what it’s going to take,” he said.
Meantime, LaForge says he’s been hit with four defamation lawsuits since launching Surrey Creep Catcher, noting he has a 10-day trial coming up next February for two.
He’s also waiting to be heard in Supreme Court after the privacy commissioner ordered him to destroy some of his “sting” videos, in which those depicted in them have filed complaints. It’s something he refuses to do.
LaForge said his work takes a toll on him, but that he’s “never, ever going to stop.”
“It’s an emotional rollercoaster but what’s being accomplished means a lot more. I can’t stop.”
LaForge has previously admitted he had a troubled past, which included convictions for mischief $5,000 or under (in 2005), failure to stop at accident with person (2005), breach of probation (2006), dangerous operation of a motor vehicle (2007) and possession of a controlled substance (2011).
And he’s faced new charges since launching his SCC group.
In May, LaForge plead guilty to two counts of assualt, in connection to two April, 2017 stings. LaForge was not sentenced to any jail time, but was handed 12 months probation and was given a conditional sentence.
But, as he told the Now-Leader in 2016, the big difference between him and his Creep Catcher targets, he says, is that he’s got nothing to hide.
“I’m an open book.”
Convictions from he youth, he said, boils down to being thrown out at a young age and having nowhere to go.
“I grew up in Whalley, I went to West Whalley, so I had some friends with involvement in things, so I was kicked out, had nowhere to go, no cash, slept at a buddy’s house and, you know, long story short, I followed the yellow brick road.”
Now, when it comes to those targeted in his stings, LaForge said he doesn’t measure success by what happens in court.
“(An individual’s) face is out there. He is ruined, and that’s basically what it’s all about. Charges, convictions, jail time, it’s a bonus.”
-With files from Tom Zytaruk