A Supreme Court justice has sentenced a 68-year-old, drug-dealing grandfather to two years in jail, saying the sentence “must show that society condemns trafficking in opioids and the harm they do to people and to the community.”
In a decision delivered orally earlier this month and in writing Thursday, Justice Mona Lynch of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Bridgewater said she couldn't consider a lesser sentence for William Oswald Russell because of the aggravating factors of the case.
She said those included the fact that he was involved in dealing purely for profit and not because of an addiction, and that the drug has “devastating effects” on people's lives.
“The sentence must show that society condemns trafficking in opioids and the harm they do to people and to the community,” Lynch said.
Russell, along with two other men from Upper Northfield, Lunenburg County, was arrested as part of a drug bust in June 2016. Police searched his home and found a bottle of hydromorphone pills. His cellphone contained text messages that were consistent with someone who was dealing in prescription pills, an expert witness testified at trial earlier this year.
The Crown had requested a three-year sentence, while the defence suggested a 36-month probationary sentence or 90 days on weekends and three years of probation, saying Russell had been free on conditions for more than three years and had no breach allegations.
But the judge said while case law that does suggest a lesser sentence is for instances of very young people, first-time offenders, and people with addictions who are trying to turn their lives around, none of those pertained to Russell.
“Based on the text messages that were put in evidence at the trial, Mr. Russell was quite entrenched in the drug culture in the area. Many people were seeking drugs from him . . . all shown in the text messages,” Lynch wrote.
“This was not a one off or rare occasion and the text messages show that,” the judge said. “While a petty retailer, he is at the higher end of a petty retailer. While a small quantity of hydromorphone was found, the texts tell a different story.”
“Opioid use is called an epidemic and a crisis in our society... (it) is not a recreational drug but rather an addiction which becomes necessary for life,” the judge wrote. “Opioids have led to increased crime, devastating families and communities. In many areas of this country there is an overdose crisis.”