Even after the court of appeal slapped this guy with double the time it’s nothing compared to what he would of got if he was in another country such as USA, where he would of got life.
Drug smugglers who bring large amounts of heroin into Canada can count on spending between 12 and 17 years in prison, the Ontario Court of Appeal said in a decision that dramatically increases the sentence handed to a young, first offender from Brampton.
Instead of 7 years and 9 months in prison, Pargat Singh Sidhu, 23, now faces a sentence nearly twice as long.
The court gave him 14 years, 9 months behind bars.
While that may seem harsh, particularly for an admittedly “vulnerable” young truck driver with limited education and, at the time he was charged, a pregnant wife, tough penalties are needed to send the message that heroin is in a league of its own and to discourage other would-be couriers, said a unanimous three-judge panel.
“Lest there be any doubt about it, heroin represents the worst of the hard drugs,” Justices Michael Moldaver, Stephen Borins and Robert Blair said in their jointly-authored decision.
Sidhu, who was enroute to California with a truck in the summer of 2005 when he was called and offered $20,000 to go to India, later brought 9.5 kilograms (21 pounds) of high grade heroin into Canada.
It represented 11.4 per cent of all heroin seized by Canadian police in 2005 or 430,290 hits.
Like many, if not most neophyte drug couriers, Sidhu was vulnerable, the panel acknowledged.
But while his youth, lack of sophistication, clean record and need for money made him a prime target for drug traffickers, Sidhu’s plight must give way to the need to protect society from the misery inflicted by hard drugs.
At a sentencing hearing last April, Crown counsel Bradley Juriansz argued that a 15 year sentence was appropriate given mitigating factors such as Sidhu’s age and lack of criminal record. Absent these considerations, 18 years would have been in order, Juriansz argued.
Defence counsel Owen Wigderson, however, urged the judge to impose a five-year sentence. Wigderson noted his client didn’t even know what kind of drug he was bringing back, though he suspected it might be opium.
Where Justice Ford Clements went wrong in sentencing Sidhu in Toronto, the appeal court said in its decision yesterday, in characterizing heroin as a drug “marginally more dangerous” than cocaine and concluding the case therefore warranted a sentence marginally higher than what a cocaine trafficker would receive.
“While we recognize that sentencing is not an exact science … absent exceptional or extenuating circumstances, first offender couriers who import large amounts of high grade heroin into Canada for personal gain should expect to receive sentences consistent with the twelve to seventeen year range,” the panel said.
“Large” doesn’t have to mean multiple kilograms, the court emphasized, adding that smaller quantities can also result in severe, if slightly lower, penalties.