Prosecutors feel judge ‘erred in law’
After a full day of testimony in his trial at Newfoundland Supreme Court, former correctional officer Ed Taylor entered an unexpected plea of guilty Tuesday. — File photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
A judge had no right to order that a former correctional officer convicted of planning to deal drugs in prison get medical treatment from his own doctor while serving his sentence, according to an appeal filed recently by both the federal and provincial Crown regarding the case of Edward Taylor.
Taylor was sentenced in Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s Jan. 23 to 16 months in jail, and 18 months’ probation, for planning to deal drugs at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP), where he worked.
The 32-year-old pleaded guilty to five counts of possessing drugs for the purpose of trafficking. The drugs included ecstasy, oxycodone, Clonazepam and morphine.
In sentencing, Justice Wayne Dymond took into consideration Taylor’s drug addiction problems and mental health issues — bipolar disorder, depression and attention deficit disorder — which he has been dealing with through counselling and rehabilitation.
In an unusual move, the judge also ordered Taylor have contact with his own psychiatrist while he’s in jail.
“I also order that Mr. Taylor, during his period of incarceration, have contact with his own psychiatrist or another psychiatrist referred by his own. Any medications prescribed for him by his physicians are to be administered under the supervision of prison authorities, more specifically as they relate to mental health issues; that he be able to avail of mental health counselling during his time in custody, wherever that may be under supervision as deemed necessary,” Dymond said in his sentencing decision.
“The Crown is to notify the superintendent of the institution where Mr. Taylor is housed, of the order relating to counselling and medicines prescribed by his psychiatrist or family physician.”
The judge went on to say, “It has to be clear to prison authorities that, if the courts of this province are incarcerating individuals with mental health issues, the necessary infrastructure programs and medications required to keep inmates healthy have to be provided for them, under proper supervision.”
However, according to the appeal, filed by federal prosecutor Andrew Brown and provincial prosecutor Sheldon Steeves, the sentence imposed is “demonstrably unfit in all the circumstances of the case,” particularly the order regarding specific medical treatment.
“The trial judge erred in principle by failing to give adequate weight to the applicable purposes and principles of sentencing, including deterrence and denunciation, and giving undue weight to (Taylor’s) personal circumstances,” the appeal states.
It goes on to say the judge was wrong to order that the Crown notify the superintendent at HMP of this order.
It is not known where Taylor is serving his time, but the psychiatric treatment of inmates at HMP has been controversial for years.
Dymond didn’t refer specifically to a facility, or a particular doctor, but it’s suspected the unusual order was connected to issues surrounding Dr. David Craig at HMP.
Several people, including citizens’ representative Barry Fleming, renewed his call for action on psychiatric services at HMP in his annual report, released in November 2011.
That report said Craig has an extremely conservative stance on the use of psychiatric drugs. When inmates get to HMP, they are often taken off medications that have been prescribed by other psychiatrists.
The issues with Craig have been publicly known since a 2008 report into the province's prison system questioned his methods.
In March 2011, Fleming issued a report on Craig, based on a raft of complaints from inmates.
After initially dismissing the report, Justice Minister Felix Collins ordered a peer review of Craig’s service.
That process is said to be underway.
Taylor lost his job at HMP in 2010 when he was found with illegal and prescription drugs, along with other unauthorized items, that were destined for inside the prison.
The RNC investigation began on Jan. 22, 2010, as a result of a tip that Taylor was smuggling drugs to inmates.
Crown prosecutors Brenda Boyd, who tried the case for the federal Crown, and Steeves had asked for a three-year jail term.
Taylor’s lawyer, John Kelly, had requested a conditional sentence of two years less a day.
When contacted by The Telegram Thursday, Kelly chose not to comment about the Crown’s appeal.