A young man who has undergone two liver transplants was spared a jail sentence for cocaine trafficking Monday after a judge said he was at risk of dying in custody.
Instead, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Powers sentenced Jeffrey Primrose to a two-year conditional sentence, which includes 18 months house arrest.
Primrose was busted in an undercover RCMP sting operation in September last year. Undercover agents purchased cocaine from him in a dial-a-dope operation in which he delivered drugs after being contacted by telephone.
RCMP encouraged him to gradually supply larger amounts. In total they arranged to purchase about $9,000 worth of cocaine on three occasions.
Crown prosecutor Anthony Varesi called it a "sophisticated, mid-level dial-a-dope operation" and asked for an 18-month jail sentence - typical for an offence in that range.
But defence lawyer Robert Bruneau argued that Primrose's complex medical conditions make him a better candidate for house arrest.
He lives on a disability income but was collecting welfare while he was selling drugs. Primrose told his lawyer he also took cocaine to manage pain.
Primrose spent a year in hospital, including a month in a medically induced coma two years ago while his liver broke down a second time. He eventually received a transplant but must take powerful drugs that suppress his immune system, Bruneau said.
As a result, minor infections or viruses can become life-threatening. He also suffers anxiety issues related to his medical condition.
"I know prison authorities honestly do their best they can for medical treatment in jail," Powers said.
"But I've heard enough cases where there's been significant problems. I don't know they have the means for specialized treatment."
Powers said the 26-year-old was at risk in jail of picking up a virus that could result in his death.
The B.C. Supreme Court Justice acknowledged the conditional sentence "was stretching the limits somewhat." But he also said Primrose has since not taken drugs and expressed remorse for his crime.
He has no previous criminal record.
Primrose may only leave his home for purposes of work, school or medical appointments for 18 months. He also faces a 10-year firearm ban.
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