Appeal Court reduces sentence for fentanyl trafficker by one year

In a split decision, BC’s highest court has reduced the jail sentence for a young fentanyl trafficker by a year.

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In a split decision, BC’s highest court has reduced the jail sentence for a teenage fentanyl trafficker by a year.

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Sukvhir Singh Gill pleaded guilty to possessing fentanyl and carfentanil for the purpose of trafficking, and trafficking in cocaine and carfentanil.

He committed the offenses in March and April 2017 when he was 19 years old and a neighbor and associate of two brothers — Sarabjit and Karan-Jit Mann — who later pleaded guilty to numerous charges involving the trafficking of fentanyl, carfentanil and cocaine.

Court heard that a member of the Abbotsford police arranged for the purchase of $1,800 worth of fentanyl in text messages using one of the Mann brothers’ drug lines, and that Gill delivered drugs to an undercover cop the next day.

On April 3, 2017, Gill was a passenger in a truck that arrived to deliver more drugs but he and the driver of the vehicle were arrested before the $2,500 sale was completed. Police searched the truck and discovered seven bags of fentanyl weighing 2.14 grams and three bags of powder containing a combination of carfentanil, fentanyl and caffeine with the concentrations of fentanyl and carfentanil again unknown.

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A provincial court judge handed Gill a sentence of five years in prison. The judge noted that the offenses were serious given the drug crisis in BC, with the deadliness of fentanyl being well-known and carfentanil being an even deadlier drug.

On appeal, Gill’s lawyer argued that the judge had made a number of errors including a failure to apply the principles of parity, rehabilitation and restraint resulting in an unfit sentence.

In a ruling handed down Thursday, two members of a three-judge panel of the BC Court of Appeal found that there had been errors sufficient to call for a reduction in sentence.

The majority noted that the moral culpability of offenders who traffic in fentanyl and carfentanil is high given the serious, unabated public health crisis caused by the street sale of the deadly substances. In her reasons for judgment Justice Barbara Fisher noted, however, that the sentencing judge did no analysis of the similarities and differences between the circumstances of the offenses in the Mann case and the case of Gill.

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There was no evidence that Gill played any role in preparing doses for street-level trafficking or was otherwise involved in directing the mid-level operations, nor was there any evidence of the concentrations of fentanyl or carfentanil, said Fisher.

The sentencing judge also did not consider Gill’s prospects for rehabilitation as a mitigating factor, or as a principle that was applicable despite the need to emphasize denunciation and deterrence, she added.

Justice Elizabeth Bennett agreed with Fisher. Gill’s sentence was cut by a year, to four years in prison.

Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein dissented, concluding that the sentencing judge properly considered, weighed and applied the sentencing principles, and the sentence should be upheld.

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