UPFRONT

Police

Using an innocent to flush out a bad guy

DANYLO HAWALESHKA May 9 2005
UPFRONT

Police

Using an innocent to flush out a bad guy

DANYLO HAWALESHKA May 9 2005

Police

UPFRONT

Using an innocent to flush out a bad guy

Mansbridge on the Record 12 I Janigan on the Issues 18 I Passages 18

Have Toronto police crossed the line in the hunt for a pedophile? In February, the force’s child exploitation group took the highly unusual step of releasing a photo of a crime scene doctored to block out a blond girl of about eight or nine: her abuse at the hands of an unknown pedophile had become a staple of online child pom. Within minutes of the photo being circulated, a Toronto resident called to identify the furniture from a stay at the Disney Port Orleans Resort in Orlando, Fla. Orlando police confirmed the tip but the leads ran dry. So last week, in another controversial decision, Toronto and Orlando police released the photo of an unknown darkhaired girl they hope might know the victim. Essentially, they are using her as a pawn.

Police don’t believe—but can’t say for sure—that the dark-haired girl has been molested. The connection: her photo was taken at about the same time, three to four years ago, and on the same couch as the victim; and detectives found the image in an online newsgroup frequented by pedophiles. The theory is that the two are somehow linked and that identifying the brunette girl

Police believe this photo, found on a website frequented by pedophiles, is of a material witness, not a victim

might lead to the other—and perhaps her abuser. But this latest image has raised a storm of debate.

Clayton Ruby, a Toronto defence lawyer, asks what happens if, because of the photo, the victim’s identity becomes known to her classmates. “Her life would be ruined,” he says. He goes on to argue society doesn’t tolerate unauthorized wiretaps or torture to nab criminals, and “we don’t consider it worthwhile to ruin a victim’s life in order to catch the person who’s victimizing.”

Florida law prohibits police there from releasing photos of sexual abuse victims. But there is no such law in Canada. Toronto Det. Ian Lamond says there are no plans to release a photo of the blond girl—police speculate she lives in northeastern U.S. or southeastern Canada—but he won’t rule that out. “What lawyers think doesn’t really concern me,” he says. “To leave a child in a sexually abusive situation simply to avoid identifying her doesn’t make any sense.” DANYLO HAWALESHKA

Quote of the week I ‘This is huge. It’s kind of like finding Elvis.’ FRANK GILL,

former science director at the U.S. Audubon Society, on the surprise sighting in Arkansas of the ivory-billed woodpecker, thought to have been extinct for the past 60 years