A 26-year-old man who sold cocaine to an undercover Mountie in Norman Wells received a six-month sentence in NWT Supreme Court Wednesday.
Dillion McGregor, who pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking cocaine, faced 12 months, the starting point or “rule of thumb” for street-level trafficking, but saw the standard sentence halved by Justice Andrew Mahar, who considered McGregor’s difficult background along with his post-offence commitment to turning his life around.
Following the launch of Project Gate Crash, an RCMP investigation into drug trafficking in the town of Norman Wells, Mounties called a phone number associated with suspected drug trafficking on June 21, 2016. An undercover officer arranged to buy cocaine and was met by two people in a truck outside of the Heritage Hotel.
McGregor, who was in the front passenger seat, placed a bag on cocaine on the truck’s center console, which was picked up by the officer. The driver, Chelsea Bjornson, picked up $180 left by the RCMP member.
In mid-November, Bjornson, 25, received a 6-month sentence after pleading guilty to a lone count of trafficking cocaine.
A day after the first undercover buy, the Mountie texted the same number and met McGregor again, purchasing another $180 worth of cocaine.
Prosecutor Blair MacPherson called for a typical sentence of 10 to 12 months given the type of offence, but admitted the case was “difficult” from the Crown’s perspective.
MacPherson said McGregor was in a “very difficult situation,” at the time of the offence, one that was hard, if not impossible, to get out of. MacPherson said the offender was caught up in drug crime through a negative peer group.
McGregor sold to support his own drinking and drug use, said MacPherson.
While MacPherson noted the mitigating factors associated with McGregor’s offence, he said there is a Parliament-imposed legal framework that must be upheld.
MacPherson said the devastating impacts of cocaine on families and vulnerable people in Northern communities is so well documented that it’s “almost trite,” to offer a recitation of them. But it’s worth saying, he said, and the court can’t lose sight of that, adding the sentence is also about sending a message to the community.
McGregor’s lawyer, Peter Harte, highlighted the steps his client took after being arrested and charged.
McGregor completed a year-long treatment program, an accomplishment both Justice Mahar and Harte, said they rarely see before the courts.
When Bjornson received half of the starting point sentence for trafficking cocaine, the sentencing judge, Justice Louise Charbonneau called the sentence “extremely lenient,” but warranted due to her circumstances.
Bjornson became a mother following her arrest.
On Wednesday, after mulling his decision, Mahar settled on a six-month sentence – the lowest the court can go – given the “extraordinary” mitigating factors, namely McGregor’s rarely-seen commitment to rehabilitation.
“If any offender has ever given me reason to go lower than starting point, it’s Mr. McGregor,” said Mahar.
McGregor must submit a sample of his DNA and cannot possess firearms for 10 years after his release. He will be recommended for early release pending employment prospects.