An RCMP officer from eastern P.E.I., who recently retired, has been sentenced to 18 months in jail for stealing painkilling drugs from an evidence locker.

RCMP Cpl. Blair Ross - Custom

RCMP Cpl. Blair Ross says he stole the drugs because he was suffering from back pain. (CBC)

Cpl. Blair Ross pleaded guilty in October to stealing more than 300 pills, including morphine, hydromorphone and Percocet. Ross was the exhibit custodian in Montague, and one of just a few staff members with access to the locker.

RCMP at the Montague detachment first noticed drugs missing from the locker on May 28, 2013. Two officers were examining exhibits to prepare testimony, and they noticed two bottles of prescription pills missing.

The officers notified district commander Staff Sgt. Dave Thibeau, who went into the room with another officer to search for the missing drugs. They found instead other problems with the drug exhibits. Some pills were loose in the bottom of the box and sealed exhibit bags had been cut open and pills removed.

Thibeau sealed the bond room and called in the major crime unit to investigate. Members of that unit were on the scene that evening. Ross was arrested on May 31. He was charged with breach of trust, theft, and possession of a controlled substance.

Pills taken for back pain

On June 3, Ross made a statement to explain his actions.

Ross said he took the drugs because he was suffering from severe back pain from wearing a gun belt. He said he had been prescribed morphine for the pain, but the dosage was not sufficient.

Ross did not want to go back to his doctor for a higher dosage. He worried a stronger prescription could mean being placed on restricted duties because of his disability, and not being allowed to wear a gun.

He had been taking the pills for about a year. At the beginning, he said, he only took drugs that were already dealt with in court and were slated for destruction. In the months leading up to his arrest, he started taking pills that had not yet been dealt with in court.

Ross was with the RCMP for almost 25 years, and had been serving in eastern P.E.I. since August 2009.

Ross was also given two years probation.