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Woman less responsible due to addiction, argues lawyer

A woman who robbed two Yellowknife convenience stores a year ago was in the grip of a raging crack cocaine addiction and, as a result, is less responsible for her actions, argued the woman’s lawyer at a sentencing on Friday.

Cynthia Lafferty is being sentenced for robbing convenience stores, assaulting corrections officers

The woman was in the grip of a raging crack cocaine addiction and, as a result, is less responsible for her actions, argued the woman’s lawyer at a sentencing on Friday. (Walter Strong/CBC)

A woman who robbed two Yellowknife convenience stores a year ago was in the grip of a raging crack cocaine addiction and, as a result, is less responsible for her actions, argued the woman's lawyer at a sentencing on Friday.

"This is a perfect example of someone who is deep in the throes of addiction," said defence lawyer Jacqueline Halliburn at the sentencing hearing for Cynthia Lafferty.

The 21-year-old pleaded guilty to robbing the two stores in the span of two days last April. A statement of agreed facts included details of the crimes, both of which were caught on security video.

After entering the Mac's convenience store at 2 a.m. she got a man to distract the lone clerk, then reached over the counter and took $100 from the register. Two days later she robbed Willie's convenience store at knifepoint and made off with $300. The clerk, who Lafferty knew, initially resisted, but relented after Lafferty thrust the knife at him repeatedly.

"If you ask Ms. Lafferty if she was high for that entire two day period, she would likely say 'yes,'" said Halliburn. Halliburn said she does not know why the courts make a distinction between drug addiction and mental illness, since addiction is recognized as an illness.

Surveillance footage of Cynthia Lafferty. The 21-year-old pleaded guilty to robbing two Yellowknife stores in the span of two days last April. (Northwest Territories RCMP)

A background report prepared for the sentencing noted Lafferty started taking hard drugs at the age of 12 and was heavily addicted to crack cocaine at the time of the robberies. Growing up in Lutselk'e, Lafferty was bullied and suffered from a lack of supervision.

After being arrested for the robberies, Lafferty's problems continued in jail. After guards tried to force her to attend a meeting with her case manager, she kicked, punched, spit at and threatened them, until they subdued her and strapped her to a chair.

The prosecutor is calling for a sentence of 27 months. Halliburn argued for two years probation, saying the 10 months Lafferty has served awaiting sentencing is enough jail time.

"She has been punished, she has been separated from society," said Halliburn. "Now it's time for rehabilitation." Halliburn said her client intends to go to a residential facility for addictions treatment once she is released.

The judge said he will give his decision March 20.

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