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This is a hypothetical question based on a trend seen on Facebook.


Sometimes vigilantes will set up a 'sting' operation. For example, they may pose online masquerading as a child to catch pedophiles.

Let us assume that the vigilantes entice someone to meet in person and they record on camera the identity of the person they have 'stung' and that the person they have recorded intended to commit a crime.

Given that there is no victim (e.g. the vigilantes aren't really vulnerable children), my question is would the vigilante's evidence be admissible in a UK court?

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    Courts only deal with (accusations of) actual crimes, not intended ones: unless the CPS believes some law has been broken (which you would need to specify in the question) , there is no trial and no usable evidence. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Dec 6 '17 at 13:10
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    @TimLymington that seems true for the example given, but there are laws that cover attempts at some things. Terrorism is pretty big as a potential place were "they wanted to" might be interesting to a court, but I think there are others. The vigilantes avoiding being tarred with the same brush might be a challenge. – user4460 Dec 6 '17 at 17:32
  • In some discussion about US "attempt" laws: If I give up my business and sell all the office equipment cheaply, and you buy it, believing things are cheap because they are stolen, then you are actually guilty of an attempt of buying stolen goods (very hard to prove obviously). Even though no stolen goods existed.It is quite possible that you might be guilty of an attempt of child abuse, even when there was no child. – gnasher729 Jun 1 '18 at 18:29
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Generally yes - the potential charges pertain to attempting, arranging or facilitating the commission of an offence. Such an offence does not necessarily require a 'child' to exist. For England and Wales, this Crown Prosecution Service article seems comprehensive: https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/vigilantes-internet-cases-involving-child-sexual-abuse

There are some caveats:

There's no defence of entrapment as such, but in E&W the CPS says some cases have been successfully defended on the grounds that the vigilante actively encouraged the suspect's activity and therefore key evidence was excluded by the court.

The nature of the relationship between the police and vigilante might mean the vigilante has become a Covert Human Intelligence Source within the eyes of the law and therefore should have been regulated by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000. In which case the absence of a RIPA authorisation might lead to key evidence being excluded by the court.

The vigilante might have sufficiently misconducted themselves so as to cause an 'abuse of process'.

The vigilante might have involved a child and could himself have committed a criminal offence, or the involvement of the child was such that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute the accused because to do so would encourage other vigilantes to involve children in that way.

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