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Discharge for Niagara officer

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A Niagara Regional Police constable’s criminal charges of prowling at night and mischief were withdrawn and he was granted an absolute discharge in the Ontario Court of Justice on a charge of theft for taking a neighbour’s video surveillance equipment last summer.

Jeffrey May, 54, of Hamilton pleaded guilty in Owen Sound Friday to the theft charge laid in connection with events June 2 near Pike Bay on the Bruce Peninsula. An absolute discharge brings no conviction.

Defence lawyer Brian Barrie said in an interview the incident involved a longstanding problem with neighbours near May’s family cottage. The cameras that May took down were aimed at neighbours’ driveways, Barrie said, summarizing a sentencing brief he provided to Justice Julia Morneau, who agreed with the defence request for an absolute discharge.

Grey County Crown attorney Michael Martin had sought a conditional discharge for the theft, the only charge on which he proceeded. He wanted probation imposed to require May not to have contact with the neighbours whose cameras May took, Martin said in an interview.

“He went on their property and he ripped down $1,087 worth of camera equipment and hid it in a ditch for a month. And these were their security cameras,” Martin said. ”You don’t take things into your own hands, regardless of whether or not you feel it’s righteous or not,” he added.

Incidents of vandalism prompted neighbours to put up cameras aimed at a shared laneway, which is beside the May cottage, Martin said.

Barrie filed a letter with updated information from May’s counsellor. May paid restitution for the camera equipment, which he’d thrown to the ground the night in question, the lawyer said. May also performed 250 hours of community service work voluntarily, Barrie said.

He said May’s mother died in December 2011 and May was at the family cottage in June while “dealing with quite a number of personal issues.” He was “having difficulty sleeping, in dealing with loss of parent. He was having difficulty dealing with other neighbours,” who May felt had ruined his mother’s final years at the cottage by making her reluctant to go there.

“The justice (Morneau) indicated, you know, that he (May) has already done everything that one could expect,” including paying restitution, Barrie said.

Martin added the judge was persuaded that May “had learned his lesson, that he has got the supports,” making non-association terms in a probation order unnecessary. She also accepted May was ”very remorseful” and “had learned his lesson.”

An Ontario Provincial Police news release about the charges said someone entered a property on Clear View Lane in South Bruce Peninsula around 9:12 p.m., a number of security cameras were taken and “the suspect was also observed causing damage to other items located on the property.”

Niagara Regional Police confirmed when the charges were laid they related to events involving May, an officer with nine years experience with Niagara police, while he was off duty. He was performing administrative duties when he was charged.

After charges were laid, he was suspended with pay, Niagara police spokesman Const. Derek Watson said.

May will remain suspended with pay while the court decision is reviewed regarding any implications it may have concerning an internal Niagara Regional Police investigation of May’s conduct, Niagara Police Chief Jeff McGuire said in a statement Monday. That investigation will consider whether Police Services Act charges should be laid, Watson said.

“Obviously I remain very disappointed any time a member of the Niagara Regional Police Service is charged with a criminal offence,” McGuire said in the statement.

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