SENTENCING - Controlled drugs and substances - Possession for the purpose of selling, trafficking, distributing or exporting - Imprisonment - Concurrent sentences

Law360 Canada (November 3, 2022, 7:12 AM EDT) -- Appeal by McLean from his convictions and sentence for two counts of possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking. In December 2018, police commenced an investigation targeting a Winnipeg drug network believed to be supplied by AM, a drug trafficker based in Vancouver. Police identified McLean, another Vancouver resident, as a suspected drug courier for AM. On March 15, 2019, police obtained a general warrant to covertly search McLean’s checked luggage on future air travel to Winnipeg. On April 5, 2019, McLean booked a same-day flight from Vancouver to Winnipeg. When the aircraft arrived in Winnipeg, McLean’s checked luggage was covertly searched by police before it was taken to the baggage carousel. Police found fentanyl and cocaine in the suitcase. The drugs were left in the suitcase and it was released with the other passengers’ luggage. McLean picked up the suitcase from the baggage carousel and was arrested as he attempted to leave the airport. McLean sought to exclude the drug evidence by challenging the facial sufficiency of the information to obtain (ITO) the general warrant. The trial judge dismissed that application. Once the drug evidence was admitted, the key issue at trial was whether McLean had the requisite knowledge to be in legal possession of the drugs in his suitcase. McLean testified that he was a blind courier and the drugs were planted without his knowledge. The trial judge disbelieved that explanation. McLean was convicted and sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment for the fentanyl offence and six years’ concurrent for the cocaine offence, less credit for pre-sentence custody. On appeal, McLean challenged the search by police of his suitcase and the trial judge’s credibility assessment. He also took the position that a 12-year sentence for the fentanyl offence was demonstrably unfit. The Crown defended the sentence based on the highly deferential standard of appellate review....
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