There is a lot in the news in Ireland currently about vigilante groups posing as children online in order to catch paedophiles "grooming" and ultimately meeting with the fictional child, which turns out to actually be the group at which point they can confront them.

To me this sounds a bit like entrapment, if that's even a thing in Ireland...

My question is, is there a crime actually being committed here? Is it enough that the perpetrator thinks they're committing one?

And would the evidence end up being rendered inadmissible anyway considering it wasn't Gardai but untrained members of the public who were collecting it? Not to mention the possibility of entrapment as I mentioned earlier ( I.e. a crime might not have been committed if the vigilantes hadn't set it up in the first place)

The question is about Ireland but I world be interested in answers about other jurisdictions also if that's allowed on the site...


2 Answers 2


It is not entrapment because entrapment must be done by officers of the State (police usually). A member of the public inducing another to commit a crime is not entrapment and not a defense to having committed it.

Entrapment is a "thing" in Ireland as it is in all common law jurisdictions, however, the specific limits on what police can and cannot do vary by jurisdiction. Police posing as underage children to catch pedophiles is legal throughout Australia (i.e., not entrapment). Police are more restricted in Canada and the USA but I believe that online "trawling" by police is legal in those jurisdictions too, however, they must remain more "passive" than Australian police.

Yes, there is a crime being committed, the crime of attempting to engage in underage sex. It doesn't matter that the actual crime attempted is impossible to commit because the "victim" is not actually underage.

Evidence is evidence – it doesn't matter who collects it. However, amateurs in the handling of evidence are more likely to botch it up in a way that would allow the defense to have it ruled inadmissible than professionals (although even they can botch it up).

  • Bear in mind that the vigilantes could be charged as accomplices, on the argument that the crime would not have been committed without their active solicitation. Commented May 6, 2018 at 14:55

Yes convictions exist, at least in the USA.

This answer is with respect to the USA, not Ireland or the EU.

I seem to recall in the late 1990s a Vice President for an early search engine company that no longer exists tried visiting an online underage sex-chat friend in person on Santa Monica Pier. He encountered a policewoman. I recalled something about the it was an adult woman's naughty fantasy and there was never an actual child defenses. Memory being fallible, I thought these defenses failed and that he was convicted.

A wikipedia page and this law review article says he was aquitted:


seems to mention the case in the opening page.

The article also mentions that internet pedophilia cases have a remarkable 95% conviction rate.

Stings involving vigilantes or law enforcement posing as imaginary 12-year-old girls were common in the USA for a while, and even featured on a prime time TV show. 600+ convictions are claimed by one vigilante group alone.

Perverted Justice [warning: disturbing material, not-safe-for-work] initially was a vigilante group that began working with the police. Later, the prime time national American TV news/infotainment show Dateline NBC partnered to create a special series "To Catch a Predator" that featured videos of the stings of dozens of suspects.

People from all walks of life (e.g. medical doctors, soldiers, schoolteachers, firemen, and many others) and all mental states from sober genius to mentally challenged to drunk/stoned would show up to claim their "prize" at the house containing a PJ volunteer portraying the girl (sometimes boy) home alone and Dateline star Chris Hansen and his camera crew waiting in the background. Some suspects believed Hansen to be the father or a police officer rather than a TV personality, and Hansen would always tell them at then end of the interview that they were going to be famous and appear on a national TV show. He would then let them walk out to experience their fate being arrested by police.

I don't know if PJ is still active. While their website still exists, the front page shows cases a few years old. They were known for keeping detailed information on their cases, including chat logs, court documents, and convictions.

  • Just an FYI, the first two did not have onscreen arrests (rather, Hansen and PJ would refer the chats to local police once the show was done filming. They stopped this practice after the second episode because one man who showed up at the house, was interviewed and released... and then went home and talked to another kid... who happened to be a PJ person... with the same account! Hansen met up with this guy at a McDonalds the next day, where the "kid" had said he would be waiting for the man.
    – hszmv
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 14:08
  • 2
    Also, a pair of episodes filmed in Texas resulted in the cases being thrown out after the District Attorney one state over solicitted an under-aged boy. Ultimately he decided not to meet. When this happens the show still turns over the evidence because the crime doesn't include a physical meeting and they let them handle this. However, Dateline decided to send some cameras with the cops going to arrest the man, who ultimately committed suicide when the cops arrived. A few reports suggested that the presence of the cameras played a role in his death and all cases were dropped.
    – hszmv
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 14:13

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