B.C. judge strikes down mandatory drug sentences
A B.C. Provincial Court judge ruled mandatory minimum sentences for drug convictions are unconstitutional and instead handed down a 191-day sentence on top of time served to an offender Wednesday.
The controversial one-year minimum sentences were part of 2012’s federal Safe Streets and Communities Act.
But in January, Judge Joseph Galati gave Crown lawyers time to come up with an argument to prove the legislation wasn’t unconstitutional after a low-level drug dealer’s lawyer applied to have the minimums ruled unconstitutional.
Crown prosecutors were unable to convince the judge Wednesday and the 191-day sentence for Joseph Lloyd was handed down.
Lloyd was convicted on Sept. 13, 2013 for possession of small amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin.
He has a “lengthy string of criminal convictions over a relatively short period of time,” said the judge.
Lloyd’s lawyer David Fai said the judge found the minimum sentences were not a reasonable limit to rights infringements in a free and democratic society.
“The crime rate is down to the 1972 levels, it’s been steadily dropping since 1991 — there’s no justification for bringing in this draconian legislation except political,” Fai said. “This appeals to the Conservatives’ base — they can say they’re tough on crime.”
Fai said he expects the Crown to appeal the ruling. If an appeal is successful his client could end up having to finish the full-year sentence, even if his 191-day sentence has already been completed.
“I assume the Crown is going to file an appeal because of the national implications this could have,” he said.
In November, an Ontario judge struck down a similar sentence for a weapons offence, but B.C. is the first province to have the drug offence sentences quashed.
Fai said other provinces could use the case for references in court, but federally the law still stands until it has completely gone through the court system.
The Public Prosecution Service of Canada said it cannot comment on the ruling.