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Fraud charges dropped against Barrie officer, but lawyer questions why she was ever charged

'Here is an organization that made her out to be a criminal. ... When you charge somebody with proceeds of crime, you don’t know whether they’re a mob boss or not as opposed to a children’s skating teacher,' says defence lawyer

A Barrie police officer charged with fraud by her own police service earlier this year is now in the clear after the Crown decided to withdraw the charges.

But Nicole Hankin’s lawyer says he’s baffled that she was charged in the first place and will examine whether the case warrants civil action or a complaint against the Barrie Police Service.

Hankin was charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000 and one count of possession of proceeds of crime over $5,000 in February. Police Chief Kimberley Greenwood ordered an investigation by the force’s professional standards unit into unspecified off-duty allegations last October. 

After review of the disclosure, as well as new information provided by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) and the former insurance provider regarding their calculation of loss, the Crown determined there was no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction and the charges were withdrawn.  

Hankin, who had previously served as a media relations officer with city police under her maiden name of Rodgers, had been absent from active duty since mid-November 2018 and, as a result of the February charges, was suspended from duty with pay. She was a 13-year veteran of the force at the time.

Defence lawyer Peter Brauti said Hankin, formerly a competitive figure skater, began teaching skating as part of her therapy when she was off work on a medical leave. Over the course of about 14 months, she earned just over $5,000.

“She advised everybody that she needed to advise,” he said, naming the police force and the WSIB. “And then, because the Barrie Police Service didn’t think that she had made total disclosure of the amount of money she was making, they turned around and charged her with two counts of fraud and one count of possession of proceeds of crime, which to this moment I can’t understand because she told them.

“The problem I have is why the Barrie Police Service would pour all the resources they did to go after a children’s skating coach for a few thousand dollars. Is the crime rate really that low in Barrie?”

Brauti said he “will take a good hard look at the file” to see if anyone needs to be held accountable and added everything is on the table. That includes the possibility of a lawsuit or formal complaints to overseeing agencies.

Chief Greenwood was not available for comment, but did provide an emailed statement to BarrieToday: “A Police Services Act investigation into the conduct of Const. Hankin continues to be active. Her suspension from duty is currently being reviewed.”

Barrie Police Association president John Brooks said he didn’t have sufficient information on how and why the charges were dropped to comment. He did indicate that the association picked up her legal tab. 

Normally, he said, the association does not cover lawyer fees when a member is charged with a criminal offence while off-duty. The bylaw only allows coverage for a member charged with a criminal offence while performing their duties and was acting in good faith while doing so.  

So while Hankin was originally denied, she appealed and the decision was overturned.

It’s unclear what lies ahead for Hankin. Brauti said an officer facing criminal charges brings a companion review under the Police Services Act.

Hankin is still on medical leave, but she’s also suspended.

Once she is cleared at that level, he said her returning to a police force that had her charged seems untenable.

“She wants to go back to work. I’m not sure that she’s going to be able to return to that kind of environment,” he said. “Here is an organization that made her out to be a criminal. ... When you charge somebody with proceeds of crime, you don’t know whether they’re a mob boss or not as opposed to a children’s skating teacher.”

About the Author: Marg. Bruineman

Marg. Bruineman is an award-winning journalist who focuses on justice issues and human interest stories
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