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A 'very rare' sentence: no jail time for Inuvik hairdresser after drug possession guilty plea

​An Inuvik hairdresser was sentenced to three years probation on Thursday after pleading guilty to two counts of possession for purpose of drug trafficking.

Melinda Joe got 3 years probation for possessing marijuana and crack cocaine for the purpose of trafficking

'I just want to say sorry to everyone, especially my family,' a tearful Joe told the Inuvik court on Thursday. (David Thurton/CBC)

An Inuvik hairdresser was sentenced to three years probation on Thursday after pleading guilty to two counts of drug possession for the purpose of trafficking.

Melinda Joe was arrested in September 2013, after Inuvik RCMP found 236.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of crack cocaine in her possession.

Rather than being sentenced to jail time, Joe has been ordered to complete 60 hours of community service in 18 months, pay a $400 victim of crime surcharge and obey various probation restrictions for the next three years.

The sentence, handed down by Justice Karan Shaner, is unusual, according to Crown prosecutor Alex Godfrey.

Godfrey said sentences for possession for the purpose of trafficking almost always involve significant jail time. The Crown had asked for 12 to 18 months custody and a period of probation.

"It's very rare… In light of the other precedents that have been before the court in the N.W.T., this is definitely outside of the established norm," Godfrey said.

The amount of marijuana in Joe's possession at the time of her arrest would have been worth between $2,000 and $4,000 loose, or between $6,000 to $9,000 pre-rolled, the Crown estimated. The crack cocaine would have sold for between $800 and $1,000.

Apology

"I just want to say sorry to everyone, especially my family," a tearful Joe told the court ahead of Shanar's sentencing.  

Before that, her attorney, Tracy Bock, read a letter written by Joe which apologized for her actions, and went into detail about her struggles and the growth she's made since 2013.

Joe had become a single mother of three before her arrest, and she had turned to selling drugs to make ends meet, said Bock.

She "has pulled her life back together since," Bock added.

Justice Shaner said she'd considered Gladue and Ipeelee factors — background factors specific to Indigenous offenders  — when determining Joe's sentence.

"The court takes a very dim view on drug trafficking in our communities," said Shanar. But she added that "the sentence must also provide a map to a law abiding path."

Godfrey says that Joe didn't have the same history of most offenders convicted of her charges.

"The person before the court today did not have a regular background that you see before the court. She did not have a criminal record. It was not the normal person that you normally see for these type of charges."

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