Sarah Leamon: Alternative Measures Program has merit in criminal cases where chance of recidivism is low

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      The wife of Delta’s police chief has found herself in some hot water and at the centre of controversy following an incident that occurred on her property on June 7.

      Although she will not face criminal prosecution, Lorraine Dubord is not off the hook. Instead, she will face a referral to the Alternative Measures Program.

      It all began in early June, outside of the Dubord’s multimillion-dollar mansion at Centennial Beach. A school teacher, Kiran Sidhu, had been walking on the beach when the tide suddenly came in, forcing her to walk across some rocks to exit the area in order to avoid getting wet. 

      While making her way across, Sidhu was allegedly confronted by Dubord, whom she says ordered her off the rocks and made a number of abusive comments pertaining to her appearance. The situation escalated, and Sidhu says that Dubord ultimately sprayed her in the face with a garden hose.

      Sidhu called Delta police. 

      However, due to the obvious potential for a conflict of interest, the investigation was handed over to Surrey RCMP, which recommended that two charges be laid against Dubord: one for assault and another for uttering threats.  

      But the B.C. Prosecution Service declined to go that route.  

      Instead, it referred Dubord to the Alternative Measures Program. This means that Dubord will not be criminally prosecuted, nor will she be at risk of receiving a criminal record or any other criminal consequence. 

      In this video, Lorraine Dubord defended her actions after being confronted by one of Kiran Sidhu's friends.

      Program enables offenders to take responsibility

      It is a development that has caused some to question whether justice has been served—or if nepotism played a part in how the case has unfolded. But for those of us who work in the criminal justice system, the use of the Alternative Measures Program in this case is rather unsurprising.  

      It's regularly used in these types of situations, involving a first-time offender who has committed what can be described as a fairly low-level crime—as is the case here.  

      It is a well-established program, which is run through B.C. Corrections and in conjunction with the B.C. Prosecution Service. It is also provided for under our federal criminal laws, which state that this approach may be used to deal with those who have committed an offence. However, it must be in line with the needs of the alleged offender, the victim, and society. 

      The program offers a formal system, outside of the criminal justice system, to deal with minor offences, where the chance of recidivism is low. It allows offenders to address the harm done to the community through their actions and to engage in rehabilitative or restorative justice initiatives, which are often more beneficial than a long, drawn-out criminal process.

      While a defence lawyer may make a request for their client to participate in the program, any referrals to it fall within the realm of the prosecutor. In deciding if it is appropriate, the prosecutor must take a flexible and principled approach, bearing in mind the needs of all parties and whether the program could achieve the same or a similar outcome to criminal proceedings. 

      It usually allows the offender to be engaged in the process, taking responsibility for their actions while also reflecting on their wrongdoing and seeking to make amends.  Those who participate in the program do so voluntarily, and are often asked to engage in restorative steps, such as making apologies, doing community service, or engaging in educational programming. 

      In this way, it helps to facilitate healing and forward momentum.

      In this case, a referral to the Alternative Measures program appears to be appropriate and just. With any luck, Dubord will take responsibility for her actions and will come to a better understanding of the impact that it had on her community.  

      After all, the manner in which she conducts herself, as the spouse of a police chief, sets an example to others.. And the example that she has set in this particular situation falls far below the standard that should be expected of anyone.  

      Dubord’s successful participation in the Alternative Measures program should act as a clear indication that no one is above the law, and that people make mistakes from which they can grow and move on. It should serve as an example of our justice system working and of our communities growing and ultimately coming together for the better.  

      If Dubord fails to successfully complete the Alternative Measures program, however, she could find herself back where she began—her file could be referred back to court and she could face prosecution. 

      Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen.