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Vigilante Evidence Ruled Inadmissible

HMA v Paul Potelle 2019

Sheriff Brown has ruled at Dundee Sheriff Court that evidence gathered by a vigilante group in was inadmissible in court and also amounted to fraud.

Mr Potelle had been charged with various sexual offences including sending indecent messages to someone whom he was alleged to believed was a 13 year old girl. However, the messages were sent by a member of a vigilante group seeking out to catch online offenders. The vigilante group, as many are known for doing, then travelled to Dundee to confront the accused. Mr Potelle was therefore taken into police protection.

However, Sheriff Brown did not believe the actions carried out by the group were lawful. Sheriff Brown stated: “I have reached the conclusion that the schemes operated were unlawful at all stages, and therefore the evidence is inadmissible.” He further stated he did not believe the actions of the group were in good faith and in fact were for “personal gratification”. It was made clear by the sheriff that such a serious and complex issue should be left to Police Scotland. Mr Potelle was therefore not subject to any further proceedings. The Crown will decide on the 10th of May 2019 if they will appeal the sheriffs ruling.

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