New Brunswick

Paramedic sentenced to 2 years in prison for drug-related charges

A paramedic with Ambulance New Brunswick has been sentenced to two years in prison on several drug-related charges, including possession for the purpose of trafficking cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, magic mushrooms, cannabis resin, and possession of marijuana.

Travis Thomas, 27, pleaded guilty to 6 charges, including possession for the purpose of trafficking cocaine

Saint John-area paramedic Travis Thomas was sentenced on Monday to two years in prison on six drug-related charges. 2:24

A paramedic with Ambulance New Brunswick has been sentenced to two years in prison on several drug-related charges, including possession for the purpose of trafficking cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, magic mushrooms, cannabis resin, and possession of marijuana.

Paramedic Travis Thomas pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges on May 5. (Facebook)
Travis Thomas, 27, had obtained the drugs for himself and five friends to share at the Evolve music festival in Antigonish, N.S., last summer, defence lawyer David Lutz told the Saint John provincial court on Monday.

They had all contributed to purchase the drugs and Thomas had no intention to distribute them to anyone else, Lutz said.

He had asked Judge Marco Cloutier to consider a sentence of "as little as 90 days" to be served on weekends.

"I recognize this is poison in the community," Lutz said, referring to the drugs, but said this was a "huge wake up call" for Thomas, who has spent the past year trying to get his life in order.

He has two jobs and supports a daughter with autism, the courtroom heard.

"This is as close to the best pre-sentence report I've ever seen. And I've been at this a long time," said Lutz.

'Well beyond' personal consumption

But Crown prosecutor Jill Knee recommended a sentence in the range of two years, citing the importance of denunciation and deterrence.

"We can't have these types of drugs in our community and taken to another province," said Knee.

She said the "hard drugs" cocaine and ecstasy alone warranted a period of incarceration and stressed the large quantities involved, including 25.1 grams of cocaine and 41 capsules of ecstasy.

"This is not personal consumption. We're well beyond that."

Travis Thomas is suspended by Ambulance New Brunswick and his paramedic licence is also suspended by the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick. (Facebook)
Police also found 7.2 grams of crystalized ecstasy, one methamphetamine pill, a blotter of LSD, two grams of cannibus resin, seven grams of magic mushrooms, a small amount of marijuana, as well as other hallucinogenic drugs that aren't currently controlled substances, Knee said.

As a paramedic, Thomas knew the impact of the drugs in his possession, she said.

In addition, there was a "significant" amount of drug paraphernalia when they searched Thomas's van and U-Haul trailer, including scales and packaging materials, bongs and other pipe instruments that had price stickers on them, Knee said.

Some of the items were in a fishing tackle box, the courtroom heard.

The judge agreed the three months recommended by the defence would "not serve society well."

Although he noted that Thomas had no prior criminal record, he said didn't view that as a mitigating factor, but rather the absence of an aggravating one.

In addition to the two-year sentence, he also ordered Thomas to provide a DNA sample, prohibited him from possessing any firearms for 10 years, and ordered him to pay a $1,200 victim fine surcharge.

Thomas fought back tears, while several of his supporters wept openly. One woman pleaded to be able to give him a hug before he was led out of the courtroom by sheriff's deputies.

Paramedic for 5 years

Thomas, who had worked as a paramedic in the Saint John region for more than five years, had initially pleaded not guilty, but ended up changing his pleas on May 5, 2015, to guilty of four counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking and one count of possession.

On Monday, he pleaded guilty to an additional count of possession for the purpose of trafficking cocaine, as several supporters looked on.

Before sentencing, Thomas sat in the front row of the courtroom slouched forward, clutching a Kleenex, his head resting in his hands.
Paramedic Travis Thomas told the court he took pride in his career, but was dealing with some work-related 'trauma' at the time, as well as some family issues. (CBC)

One woman sitting behind him dabbed away tears, while another woman patted his back.

He apologized to the court and his family, his voice cracking with emotion.

"This is not the type of person I am. This is not the type of person I will be," he said, calling his behaviour "completely out of character."

Thomas said he took great pride in his career, worked hard at it and was good at it. He also did volunteer work with several organizations and events, such as Girl Guides and the Dragon Boat Festival, he said.

But he was going through a rough period at the time, partly due to "trauma" from work and a family separation.

"I made a mistake," he said. "I'm not the same person I was a year ago."

Still facing disciplinary hearing

Thomas was arrested in the Saint John area on July 10, 2014, after police received a tip.

Chris Hood, executive director of the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick, says Travis Thomas could potentially lose his licence and face a fine up to $20,000 following a disciplinary hearing. (CBC)
Ambulance New Brunswick's director of operations, Yvon Bourque, declined to comment on Thomas's case, citing privacy and confidentiality.

But in an emailed statement, he said: "When ANB learned an employee had been charged with criminal offences, the employee was suspended without pay."

Thomas's paramedic licence is also suspended by the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick, which is the provincial licensing body and regulator for paramedics.

He still faces a disciplinary hearing by the association to determine whether his licence to practise in New Brunswick will be reinstated, revoked or continue to be suspended, executive director Chris Hood said outside the courtroom.

- Chris Hood, Paramedic Association

"Certainly this is a very serious issue, something that certainly as a paramedic you need to be, you know, above reproach. And in this case, the evidence shows that perhaps that wasn't the case, so I'm sure our disciplinary process will deal with it strongly and harshly," Hood said.

Hood says Thomas could face anything from a fine of up to $20,000 to the termination of his licence.

He expects the quasi-judicial public hearing to be held within 90 days and a decision within about 10 days of that.

The association had not received any complaints that Thomas was dealing drugs while on duty, Hood said.

This is is the first time a New Brunswick paramedic has been convicted in such as serious matter since 2008, when the association officially became the licensing body, he added.

"I don't for one second believe that paramedics are any different than any other member of the public. We have people in our profession that stray across the lines of what's legal and what's not, the same as we do with physicians, the same as we do nurses, lawyers or judges," said Hood.

"So I don't think we're above having issues that we need to have dealt with, it's just ensuring that you have good processes in place," he said.

"I think by the fact that we've only had this one significant case of this nature in the eight years we've been doing this work, that speaks pretty strongly to both the character and the processes we have in place.

"So for the public, I don't think they should be overly alarmed. I think this is hopefully an outlier. I have all reason to believe that it is not typical of 99.9 per cent of the profession."

The association investigates about 20 paramedics a year and about six of those end in disciplinary action, Hood said.

Thomas's paramedic licence was suspended in January 2015, after the paramedic association carried out the first phase of its investigation.

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