Former Penticton cop gets conditional sentence in bizarre harassment case | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Former Penticton cop gets conditional sentence in bizarre harassment case

Former Penticton police officer Rachelle Blanchard faced sentencing on a charge of criminal harassment in Penticton court today, Oct. 7, 2019.
October 07, 2019 - 4:48 PM

PENTICTON - A former Penticton RCMP officer was given a big break in court today, despite pleading guilty to criminal harassment. 

Rachelle Leanne Blanchard was put on probation for a year under a conditional discharge, meaning she won't have a criminal record if she abides by conditions. 

The charge stems from a series of actions taken by Blanchard between 2013 and 2017 while serving as a police officer at the Penticton RCMP detachment after an affair with fellow police officer Const. Martin Degen, began in 2013.

Both officers were married at the time. Their respective partners weren’t aware of the affair until police began investigations into Blanchard’s actions in  2017, court heard.

Blanchard’s activities included harassing Gail McDiarmid, Degen’s wife at the time, in an effort to break up the marriage.

In September 2013, Blanchard used McDiarmid’s name and address to deliver articles to her address that included lingerie.

In late 2016 she sent an unknown number of text messages from anonymous accounts to Const. Degen, alleging an affair on McDiarmid’s part.

She also used an email account in another name to file false complaints to Interior Health, McDiarmid’s employer, alleging she viewed private documents while on duty as a nurse in March, 2014.

An interior Health investigation later found the allegations to be false.

Blanchard also had several children’s books dealing with marital breakdowns delivered to McDiarmid’s address in June, 2017.

In another instance, Blanchard used a Facebook post to set up a dinner date between McDiarmid and a stranger.

Defence lawyer Ian McAndrews said his client “embarked on the activities referred to in the statement of facts" after Blanchard learned Degen would not leave his wife for her, telling her it was “cheaper to keep her.”

Blanchard confessed to her activities on Aug. 22, 2017, and was suspended. She was fully cooperative with police, subjecting herself to a series of interviews totalling more than eight hours.

She was arrested on May 30, 2018 and charged with criminal harassment, personation and mischief.

She was formally discharged from the RCMP on May 9, 2018.

McAndrews told court his client’s actions were influenced by trauma and a combination of health issues brought on by her work on the RCMP, including diagnoses of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression.

A victim of sexual harassment herself, Blanchard was part of the recent class action suit against the RCMP for sexual harassment.

He portrayed Blanchard as the officer "everyone turned to," recalling her career on the Maple Ridge and Penticton detachments where she attended shootings, drownings, near drownings and highly emotional youth-related offences.

In her whole career she only had one critical incident debriefing,  McAndrews said.

He presented several letters of recommendation for Blanchard’s character, including those from several commanding officers, noting her unblemished RCMP record prior to the present offence.

He said his client continues to face personal difficulties from her actions, including a failed marriage and a lawsuit from McDiarmid, calling Blanchard a “low risk to reoffend."

McAndrews told court Crown wouldn’t have had a case had his client not been forthright and honest about her conduct and willingly going to police.

He asked judge Richard Miller for an absolute discharge.

Montrichard said the case had “significant aggravating facts," most prominently that Blanchard was a police officer when the infractions took place.

He also called her actions a breach of trust as a police officer.

Judge Miller disagreed with Montrichard’s characterization of Blanchard’s actions as a breach of trust, however, saying none of her actions had anything to do with her representation as a police officer.

Montrichard also saw a significant mitigating factor in Blanchard’s cooperation, asking the judge to consider a conditional discharge for the offence.

Blanchard apologized for her actions, telling court the last few years had been “a big blur.”

Judge Miller called the case “out of the norm” due to the fact both Blanchard and Degen were officers working out of the Penticton detachment at the time of the incidents.

He commented on three psychiatric reports diagnosing Blanchard with PTSD, but noted her actions were not spur of the moment and had elements of deviousness in them.

He said the only issue at hand for him to decide was whether Blanchard’s discharge should be unconditional or not.

He sentenced her to a conditional sentence of one year.

In addition to one year’s probation, Blanchard faces several no contact orders and a 10 year firearms ban.

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