Mountie applauds judge

by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 15/96) - Five Mounties wrestled a 23-year-old woman into a jail cell, Tuesday.

Police say her body was pocked with needle tracks and her mind was "absolutely blown" from a drug that's causing more problems more frequently on the streets of Yellowknife.

"I've seen people freaked out before on heroin and speed, but I've never seen anyone like that from cocaine," said Staff Sgt. Dave Grundy.

Yellowknife is quickly becoming a cocaine-plagued city, he said.

And while other important centres like Toronto and Vancouver are ridding themselves of the 1980s' drug of choice (only to make way for the now-popular heroin), the North's capital just wants more of the white stuff.

"A lot of kids and people are in serious trouble here because of cocaine. There's an increase in demand and the justice system must react to that," he said.

Grundy applauded a recent decision by a territorial court judge to begin throwing first-time offenders convicted of cocaine possession in jail for a minimum 30 days.

"I like the approach. At least he's trying to do his part. I'm not saying jail is always the answer, but in many cases, if we can get them away from the stuff -- even for just a few weeks -- it can make all the difference," said Grundy.

Robert Gorin, president of the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association and the lawyer who defended the case, wouldn't comment on the judge's decision.

He said only that he wasn't planning on appealing the judgment.

However, chief Northern Crown attorney Pierre Rousseau said it's obvious that a 30-day minimum sentence for cocaine possession shows judges are concerned about the drug's proliferation.

"Judges have it within their discretion to set penalties and sentences as they see fit within the boundaries of the law. We, as lawyers, must respect that," he said.

Lawyers in his office will be looking closely at the territorial court's decision and will adapt to it.

"We will continue to bring cases before the court, fairly present the evidence, and do our best to get a fair and just result," said Rousseau.

"But we can't tailor our requests for sentencing to each particular judge -- we have to take into consideration the trend of the entire court," he said.