A convicted drug dealer has lost an appeal of his sentence after a Surrey provincial court judge sentenced him to two years in prison and 18 months probation following his guilty plea and conviction for two counts of trafficking and two counts of drug possession, including fentanyl.
The Court of Appeal for British Columbia upheld Terrel Desmond’s sentence Nov. 24 in Vancouver.
Desmond claimed the trial judge erred in four ways, Justice Susan Griffin noted in her reasons for judgment.
The four errors alleged involved the Surrey judge giving insufficient weight to a report that assessed the impact of race and culture “in light of Mr. Desmond’s heritage as a Black Nova Scotian,” that the judge placed too much emphasis on Desmond’s criminal record which predated these crimes by a decade or more, that the judge concluded that Desmond took part in “price negotiation and deal-making” in the context of his crimes, and that he erred “in questioning” if Desmond accepted responsibility for the offences.
But Griffin found the sentence was within range of sentences imposed on other offenders for similar crimes, with a first-time sentencing for street-level trafficking in fentanyl typically ranging between 18 and 36 months in jail.
“Trafficking in fentanyl is an especially serious offence because of the lethal nature of the drug,” Griffin noted. “Thousands of people have died in B.C. due to drug overdoses. Often people who use drugs are marginalized to begin with, and so continuation of the illegal drug trade harms particularly vulnerable groups.”
She also decided it “cannot be said that the judge erred by overlooking Mr. Desmond’s acceptance of responsibility. The judge expressly took Mr. Desmond’s guilty plea and remorse into account as mitigating factors in sentencing.
Moreover, Griffin also found the Surrey judge’s inference that Desmond had a role in negotiating and pricing “did not overwhelm his views of Mr. Desmond’s relative place in the chain of drug distribution and therefore did not affect his view of Mr. Desmond’s moral blameworthiness or the sentence.”
Griffin noted that while the Surrey judge found Desmond’s criminal record “highly relevant” he nevertheless also “expressly recognized that there was almost a ten-year gap in offending, and considered this gap to be a relevant mitigating factor.
“It cannot be said that the fact Mr. Desmond had a prior record for trafficking and violent offences is entirely irrelevant. The relevance is apparent from the judge’s review of other sentencing decisions. In many of them where conditional sentences were imposed, the offence in question was the offender’s first drug trafficking offence and the offence was driven by the offender’s own drug addiction.”
Concerning the Impact of Race and Culture Assessment, Griffin noted, “In the sentencing judge’s analysis, the seriousness of the offence would have justified a greater sentence than he imposed, but he reduced the sentence by taking into account the mitigating factors affecting Mr. Desmond, including his heritage as a Black male of Nova Scotian descent.”
Justices Harvey Groberman and Ronald Skolrood concurred with Griffin’s decision.