Battle over mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealing enters B.C. Court of Appeal

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      Vancouver lawyers return to court today (June 5) in a case that could see the Conservative government’s mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences eventually repealed.

      Earlier this year, a B.C. provincial court judge ruled unconstitutional an automatic one-year prison term for a person repeatedly convicted of dealing narcotics. Judge Joseph Galati found that a mandatory minimum sentence violates section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that every citizen has the right to not be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

      Lawyers for the federal government appealed that decision, which concerns a 2012 amendment to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. And so the case is entering the B.C. Court of Appeal.

      In a telephone interview, Adrienne Smith, health and drug policy staff lawyer for Pivot Legal Society, said she is hopeful Galati’s decision will be upheld.

      “Mandatory minimum sentences are not good public policy for anyone,” she told the Straight. “In our view they may amount to cruel and unusual punishment, particularly for offenders who are women, aboriginal, and people involved in the drug trade because of their addiction.”

      The case concerns Joseph Ryan Lloyd, a 25-year-old resident of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. According to court documents, Lloyd is a long-time drug user with 21 prior convictions. He was arrested in March 2013 and in September convicted on three counts of trafficking relatively small amounts of heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

      In a January 2014 ruling openly sympathetic to the defendant, Galati noted that Lloyd was a low-level dealer only selling drugs to support his own addictions. Galati stated he would therefore sentence the young man to 191 days in addition to time served, instead of the minimum of one-year.

      Smith maintained that a drug offence related to addiction should be treated as a medical issue and dealt with by health-care workers, not a criminal matter where the individual in question is made the responsibility of a prison.


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      Mandatory Madness

      Jun 5, 2014 at 12:46pm

      Mandatory minimums are simply for the benefit of the big coporate for profit private contractors prison industry.

      It provides a regular feeder system to feed ever growing jail population for private corporate run prisions.

      This is the model in the US pushed by the right wing.

      Even Texas is trying to move away from mandatory minimums with a phased re-hab program overseen by the Courts.

      Where Drug dealers and users are pushed towards rehab rather than standard jail time with no regard for the circumstances of each Case.

      PBS has good stats on Mandatory Prison...

      You can see for yourself why it's a terrible idea given the 800% increase in the prison population targeting mostly the poor & minorities while the king pins get away.

      Mandatory Prison might work best for Bankers rather than Drug Dealers but very few Bankers at the top level have gone to jail and they have done as much if not more harm than street level addicted drug dealers.

      So confused

      Jun 5, 2014 at 1:52pm

      "Particularly for offenders who are women"...Huh?

      How on earn is gender have to do with drug dealing?

      Right men are evil...Women are saintly. I forgot we are not all equal when it comes to crime.

      Tell that to the vast majority of homeless who are male.

      Dave Thompson

      Jun 3, 2015 at 1:25pm

      I think there needs to be a tougher minimum sentence for those found guilty of dealing drugs. They are a real problem for the youth in American. The longer we keep them off the streets the better off I think the youth of today will be. Thanks for the great article.