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Appeal court cuts B.C. drug trafficker's prison sentence

An Abbotsford man's prison time was cut from five years to four. B.C.'s Court of Appeal took into consideration his youth and prospects for rehabilitation.
Abbotsford police car
An Abbotsford Police Department drug investigation resulted in multiple arrests and convictions.

B.C.’s Court of Appeal has cut a fentanyl trafficker’s jail sentence from five years to four saying the sentence better reflects the man’s youth and chances of rehabilitation.

“The moral culpability of offenders who traffic in fentanyl and carfentanil is very high given the serious, unabated public health crisis caused by the street sale of drugs containing these deadly substances,” Justice Barbara Fisher said. “Despite the seriousness of this offence, intervention is justified in this case.”

Sukhvir Gill appealed a sentence of five years for possessing fentanyl and carfentanil for the purpose of trafficking.

He had pleaded guilty to the offence, as well as to trafficking in cocaine and carfentanil. He was sentenced to two years on the first count and five years concurrent on the second.

The offences were committed in March and April of 2017, shortly after the arrests of Gill’s colleagues Sarabjit and Karan-Jit Mann on similar charges.

They later pleaded guilty to numerous offences involving the trafficking of fentanyl, carfentanil and cocaine.

Fisher, writing majority opinion in the 2-1 split decision, said the lethal danger of fentanyl was already well known at the time of the offences.

It was on March 9, 2017 that a member of the Abbotsford Police Department arranged to purchase $1,800 worth of fentanyl in text messages using one of the Mann brothers’ drug line numbers.

The following day, Gill, then 19 with no criminal record, delivered the drugs to an undercover officer.

Analysis showed the drugs to be a mixture of cocaine and carfentanil, weighing 6.53 grams.

A second sale, for $2,500, was arranged for April 3, 2017.

Gill was a passenger in the truck that arrived to deliver the drugs. He and the driver were arrested before the sale was completed.

A truck search revealed seven bags of fentanyl weighing 2.14 grams and three bags of powder containing a combination of carfentanil, fentanyl and caffeine, weighing 8.12 grams.

The police investigation was dubbed Purple Rain.

Fisher said the crimes require a penitentiary sentence, but said such a sentence should reflect “the principles of denunciation and deterrence but this must be tempered by the appellant’s youth and prospects for rehabilitation.”

Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein disagreed.

She said given the perils of the drugs involved, the five‑year sentence was a fit, if not lenient one.

“The impact of a heightened presence of fentanyl and carfentanil in the illicit drug supply has led to staggering levels of overdose and death,” Stromberg-Stein said.

Stromberg-Stein said the Mann brothers received four years’ imprisonment for trafficking charges related to fentanyl.

One brother received sentences of five years concurrent for three counts of trafficking in small quantities of carfentanil.

Stromberg-Stein noted the appeal court upheld that five‑year sentence on appeal, although Justice Gregory Fitch said it was a lenient sentence.

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