With the propensity for criminals to target both secured and unsecured belongings, the community is frustrated. Some have turned to popular social media sites venting and coming up with plans to exact their own revenge, while others have taken the law into their own hand.
A quick scan of social media will show you altercations between citizens and alleged criminals, sometimes refereed to as vigilantism, happen everywhere and not just here.
Another quick search will find multiple documents on vigilantism, its causes, and legal ramifications. For his part, Mayor Christian Provenzano provided us a statement after our story on vigilante justice earlier this week.
“No one has the right to drive around to seek out people to demean and threaten. People dealing with addiction issues deserve to be treated with respect and dignity,” said Provenzano. “To seek them out for the purpose of interacting with them in a disturbing and disrespectful manner, only serves to further stigmatization of addiction and mental health issues.”
Vigilante justice has been highlighted recently in the local media. According to a research paper published, The Police Journals, it’s a subject which poses “an unusual problem for law-enforcement agencies.”
“On one hand, police officers can understand what motivates the vigilantes and some may even share some satisfaction in the ad hoc punishment meted out to suspected criminals,” states Andrew Sikes, Author of the paper and lecturer at the University of Leicester. “On the other hand, vigilantes often break the law in their efforts to punish alleged wrongdoers, and sometimes their perception of what constitutes deviant behaviour is not shared by the legal system.”
The Federal department of Justice has a page dedicated to making a citizens arrest in relation to an indictable offence in Canada.
In most cases, you must find a person either in the act of committing a crime, or escaping from and freshly pursued by persons who have lawful authority to arrest that person in order to lawfully make a citizen’s arrest.
In particular, if you are arresting a person for an indictable offence, which is the most serious type of offence and includes violent offences, you can only make the arrest at the time you witness the person committing the offence.
It is against the law to arrest a person after any lapse in time for having committed an indictable offence, unless it is relation to your property.
In special circumstances of any type of criminal offence that is committed on or in relation to your property, you may either:
- arrest a person you find in the act of committing a crime; or
- arrest a person within a reasonable period of time after having found that person committing a crime.
To be eligible to make a citizen’s arrest for a crime on or in relation to property, you must be one of the following:
- the owner of the property;
- in lawful possession of the property; or
- have been authorized by the owner or the person in lawful possession of the property.
The law allows you to use as much force as is necessary for the purpose of making a citizen’s arrest, as long as you are acting on reasonable grounds. However, any force you use must be tailored to the circumstances, and you are criminally responsible for any excess force you use. In addition to the potential for a criminal prosecution, you may also face a civil lawsuit in relation to your conduct and any injury you cause.
The law requires that when making a citizen’s arrest, the arrested individual must be delivered to a police officer without delay. If you make a citizen’s arrest and do not call the police as soon as possible, the arrest might be ruled illegal and you could face civil or criminal consequences.
Rick Danyliuk, a practising lawyer in Saskatoon, gave this advise in an article in The Western Producer.
“From a common-sense point of view, a person should be careful in such a situation. Even following someone who is leaving the scene of a crime can be dangerous if he spots you,” said Danyliuk. “Most police officers will tell you to report the incident and observe from a safe distance. They are worried that if you intervene, someone (probably you) will get hurt.”
That advice is parroted by Provenzano.
“If a person believes someone else has committed a crime or is in the processing of committing a crime, they should contact the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service.”
Sault Police Services is also on the record discouraging this type of behaviour.
Stay with SaultOnline/ONNTV as we continue to highlight the crime in our community.