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Street-level drug deal earns further jail time

Douglas William Gibbs, 35, sentenced for selling heroin-fentanyl and methamphetamine to undercover police officers

A man was sentenced Thursday to a further eight months in jail for selling a street-level amount of heroin-fentanyl to undercover police officers in front of a Prince George convenience store.

In all, Douglas William Gibbs, 35, was sentenced to 18 months for the offence, but the term was reduced by 10 months to account for time served prior to sentencing.

Gibbs had sold 0.27 grams of the drug in exchange for $30 outside the 7-11 at 20th Avenue and Spruce Street on August 29, 2018. 

He also sold 0.23 grams of methamphetamine for $10 and, the next day, sold 0.49 grams of methamphetamine to the officers. For those offences, he was sentenced to concurrent terms of seven months, erased by time served.

In submissions on sentencing, federal Crown prosecutor Angie Murray argued for 28 months less time served and emphasized the role fentanyl has played in the ongoing opioid crisis. In 2018, there were 51 deaths due to overdoses from illicit drugs in Prince George, it was noted.

Conversely, defence counsel Connor Carleton submitted 10 months, or effectively time served, was the appropriate starting point. He said the amounts sold were at the single-dose level and that Gibbs had agreed to make the sales only after he had been approached by the officers as he was riding by on his bike. Roughly a half hour later, he returned with the drugs and, on the second day, chipped a shard off a larger chunk of methamphetamine. 

Carleton also noted Gibbs'  long-running addiction to drugs, notably methamphetamine, and his Indigenous background. Gibbs' father attended residential school.

In reaching his decision, Provincial Court Judge Peter McDermick concluded Gibbs' actions warranted a sentence at the bottom end of the range of 18 to 36 months Murray had presented to the court.

McDermick noted Gibbs' lengthy criminal record of 54 convictions but also noted that none of them were drug-related. Prior to sentencing, Gibbs said he did not "do this to hurt people," which the judge accepted as an indication of remorse.

In sentencing Gibbs, McDermick also added a request that he serve the time at a therapeutic community based at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre.

Gibbs has never denied making the sales but the matter was taken to trial in January over concern he had been entrapped by the officers.

The officers were from out of town and had been brought in as part of an investigation that, at first, did not include the spot. At issue was whether RCMP had reasonable suspicion to deploy the officers to the location.

Carleton had argued the grounds for the action were "too vague and soft." In particular, he noted that in the lead up, an RCMP officer noticed suspicious activity but could not confirm whether an actual transaction had taken place nor provide a date for the sighting.

McDermick agreed that on its own, it was not enough to justify the move but noted it was not the only reason the undercover officers were deployed to the spot.

People involved in drug trafficking and drug use were starting to spend time at the location, there were overt signs of intoxication by some of the people seen, drug paraphernalia was found in the parking lot and nearby alley and police were getting calls to the spot several times a day for drug-related issues, McDermick noted and dismissed the application to throw out the case.

Gibbs was also sentenced to 18 months probation and to concurrent terms in jail ranging from 30 to 60 days for a series of offences committed while out of custody. They include a two-year driving prohibition for failing to stop for police and 60 days for kicking a woman as she was riding by on her bicycle. The victim refused to cooperate with police but the incident was caught on video, prompting Gibbs to plead guilty to the offence.