Charges against Greater Sudbury Police constable Melisa Rancourt have now been withdrawn and she will avoid having a criminal record after being charged for resisting arrest and trespassing, stemming from an incident at the Espanola Recreation Centre on Sept. 26.
Rancourt’s attorney Len Walker made an appearance in Espanola provincial court briefly on her behalf on Jan. 10 to update the court on Rancourt’s progress in the Direct Accountability program, which is administered by the John Howard Society. Because she has completed the program’s requirements, which include admitting to the crimes, the two charges against Rancourt have now been officially withdrawn.
Rancourt, a Greater Sudbury Police constable, has been assigned administrative duties while her case worked its way through the court.
The charges stem from Rancourt’s arrest on Sept. 26 when she refused to provide proof of vaccination to attend her child’s hockey game at the Espanola Recreation Centre. Witness told Sudbury.com Rancourt yelled and screamed, called bystanders “nazis” and kicked a door while arguing with an OPP officer called by rec centre staff after the GSPS officer refused to show proof of vaccination.
Rancourt was arrested and charged with resisting a peace officer, and entering a premises when entry has been prohibited, contrary to the Trespass to Property Act (TPA). Her partner, Dana Rancourt, was also charged with trespassing in regards to the same incidents. You can read more about that incident here.
The Direct Accountability program is run through the John Howard Society and is focused on giving adult offenders an opportunity to “make amends” for their wrongdoing rather than be convicted of a crime. Instead of typical judicial discipline, such as a criminal record, jail time and probation, the program allows a person to accept responsibility for their actions and make amends through an assigned task or “sanction,” meaning they may not have to return to court and would not have a criminal conviction registered.
A central tenet of the Direct Accountability program is the requirement to admit wrongdoing.
“The direct accountability program has been around for about eight years now,” Sara-Jane Berghammer, CEO of the Sudbury John Howard Society, told Sudbury.com.
Also commonly known as the Second Chance program, Berghammer said it “gives people a second chance of being free of having a criminal record, which is really important for volunteering or unemployment in the future; but when we're working with people through the direct accountability program, they have to admit wrongdoing.”
When someone is referred to the John Howard program, either by contacting John Howard Society or obtaining a referral from the court, there are a number of sanctions that can be recommended
“Things like writing a letter of apology to the victim, paying restitution to the victim, or making a donation or doing community service,” said Berghammer.
They also have other programs that, like Direct Accountability, allow those charged to work with the system to ensure that they are not permanently affected by behavior they may not normally engage in.
“We also have other programs, too, like the Stop Shop theft program, and the anger and substance awareness program,” she said. “Because some people might have been under the influence at the time of the offence, or that's out of their character, normally.”
When someone is referred to the program, the program co-ordinator meets with the client and together they determine what is an appropriate sentence or sanction.
“There's flexibility in the program to try and help people be successful,” said Berghammer. “Because not everyone is able, for instance, to volunteer or to pay. So we have the flexibility to change or modify the sanctions to help the client be successful.
The sanctions chosen are confidential, and when the client has completed the program, this information is provided to the court, and the charges are usually withdrawn, as was the case with Rancourt’s charges.