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OPP officer convicted of assault dodges jail time with suspended sentence

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Constable Bailey Nicholls of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) was handed a suspended sentence after being convicted of assaulting an Orillia woman during an arrest more than four years ago - a sentence that will likely save her job in law enforcement.

Justice John Olver found Nicholls guilty of assault causing bodily harm in October. He admonished the officer, saying that were it not for her having a one-year-old boy to care for, along with other circumstances, she would likely have been sentenced to 30 to 45 days behind bars for her conduct.

The judge also told Nicholls, "If there is not a lesson in all of this for you, then maybe you should not be a police officer."

Security video released from inside a holding cell in 2019 revealed the interaction between Nicholls and a 43-year-old woman arrested for public intoxication.

Nicholls grew increasingly frustrated with the woman as she tried to remove her jewelry and became physical with her, including breaking her necklace, grabbing her throat, and forcefully pushing her head into cell bars, resulting in the woman sustaining a head injury requiring five staples.

Olver criticized Nicholls for providing misleading and conflicting accounts of the incident, failing to document it properly, and obstructing the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) probe. The judge highlighted the pivotal role of the surveillance footage in holding Nicholls accountable for her actions.

The defence maintains Nicholls acted out of fear for her safety.

Nicholls was placed on 15 months of probation, ordered to undergo impulse control or anger management counselling, and complete remedial use-of-force training. Additionally, she can't have contact with the victim, must provide her DNA for the criminal database, and fulfill 150 hours of community service.

The OPP Association intends to appeal the guilty verdict, asserting Nicholls' innocence and challenging the judge's interpretation of evidence and law. The association says Nicholls did not use excessive force and should be exonerated.

Justice Olver emphasized the breach of public trust and the seriousness of Nicholls' actions, underscoring the need for accountability within law enforcement.

In an email to CTV News, the OPP stated, "We recognize that it can be deeply troubling when a police officer is convicted of or even accused of a criminal offence. The OPP is a very large service, and serious breaches of the law or professional standards by our members are rare. We hold our officers to the highest standards of professionalism and are committed to ensuring that we maintain the public's trust."

With the criminal proceedings concluded, Nicholls could face further disciplinary action under the Police Services Act.

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