A 17-year-old Toronto-area girl has told VICE that vigilante pedophile hunter Justin Payne, the controversial subject of the VICE documentary Age of Consent, has allegedly been using her photograph without her consent to lure suspected predators.
The girl, whose identity is not being revealed to protect her privacy, told VICE she found out Payne was allegedly using her photo at the end of March when she commented on one of his Facebook statuses and several people—including Payne's former cameraman—reached out to her saying they recognized her from decoy profiles Payne uses to lure suspected predators.
The girl said she's known Payne since childhood because her mother and Payne have been dating for the last 12 years. Her relative, Lisa Gaudet, told VICE she filed a police complaint last week on the grounds that Payne was using the teen's photo without consent. Toronto police confirmed there is an open investigation into the matter but no arrests have been made nor have charges been laid.
VICE has viewed a partial screenshot of a chat log between Payne and one of his alleged predators. The girl said she believes the small photo icon in the chat log is her, but she doesn't remember taking that particular photo and does not have a copy of it.
Reached by VICE over Facebook, Payne denied the allegations and said he has never used the girl's photos. He did confirm that the chat log screenshot was from one of his profiles but said those photos aren't of the girl in question.
"What is being said is lies and rumours," he said. "I've had consent for the pictures I use. Same pictures for the past few years." He said he has never used a decoy photo of a boy or girl without permission.
He said the girl's mom is his ex-girlfriend.
Gaudet told VICE she's enraged and feels the teen was put in danger by allegedly having her photo circulated in her own neighbourhood. It's impossible to know what men are doing with the photos, she added.
"He's literally put her picture where he's luring these men where she lives. It's disgusting," she said.
Payne told VICE he doesn't use photos of decoys in the same areas that the decoys live.
Gaudet said the girl's mom was warned around Christmas that Payne might be using the teen's photo but nothing came of that. VICE has not been able to reach the girl's mother.
The girl, who doesn't live with her mom, said she replied to one of Payne's statuses on March 22 saying that he's not a hero and "and he needs to stay away from my mom."
"Instantly people contacted me and said you're the girl he uses to lure pedophiles," the girl told VICE.
BC-based lawyer Craig Jones, who has been closely following the pedophile hunting phenomenon, told VICE Payne could potentially be breaching privacy laws or even be charged with impersonating someone if the allegations are proven.
That aside, he said this alleged behaviour "puts her at risk."
"The predators that only engage in the first part of the conversation and for whatever reason never actually get stung have that image of her as the target of their affections and presumably as a willing [participant]."
Payne's former cameraman Gerry O'Brien told VICE he is 100 percent sure that the girl is the same person from Payne's decoy profiles. He messaged the girl via Facebook and said, "I have seen your photos on his profiles. I am trying to find the profiles. But I have seen you before." O'Brien said he and Payne no longer speak.
Another woman, Julie Timms told VICE she's a former friend of Payne's who used to help with his operations. Timms recognized the girl when she posted on Payne's wall and reached out to say she'd seen her photo, one she described as a bathroom selfie, used on one of Payne's accounts. "I actually saw it on his computer. I held his phone in my hand reading conversations with that picture," she said.
The girl told VICE O'Brien showed her which photo Payne allegedly used of her and that it was a "bathroom mirror selfie" from her old home. She said she is not sure how old she was in the picture, just that she was "younger."
The girl told VICE Payne has been in her life since she was five years old and would have access to lots of her photographs. She said learning that her photo is allegedly being circulated makes her feel violated.
"I'm scared to walk down the street now," she said. "It's great that he's protecting kids but he's ruining other kids' lives to do so."
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