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Halifax crack trafficker receives prison time, probation

The Law Courts in Halifax.
The Law Courts in Halifax. - Steve Bruce

A Halifax man has been sentenced to two years in prison, followed by three years’ probation, for possessing crack cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.

Shancy Centel Simmonds, 39, was found guilty last August following a trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

Simmonds was sentenced last week by Justice Josh Arnold. The written decision was released by the court Monday.

“Few who work in the criminal justice system would be unaware of the far-reaching and poisonous tentacles of crack cocaine,” Arnold said in his sentencing decision. “It is highly addictive and incredibly destructive.

“Mr. Simmonds, as a repeat trafficker of this horrible drug, would have better knowledge than most about the impact of crack.”

Police searched Simmonds on the street after he was arrested Feb. 10, 2018, and found just over half a gram of crack, 4.2 grams of cannabis, a small scale and $2,035 in cash.

Officers then took him to the police station for a strip search, at which time he withdrew a bag of crack weighing 56.8 grams from his underwear.

Simmonds claimed his charter rights were violated, but that motion was dismissed and he was subsequently convicted.

Crown attorney Glen Scheuer recommended a sentence of four years in prison, while defence lawyer Trevor McGuigan suggested 2.5 years.

Simmonds came before the court with 21 previous convictions on his adult criminal record, including four for trafficking drugs or possession for the purpose of trafficking. He received a three-year prison sentence in 2010 for those offences, which were committed in 2008.

The judge said a cultural assessment prepared for sentencing provided a detailed picture of how Simmonds, who is African Nova Scotian, “ended up in this situation.”

“Mr. Simmonds comes from a racialized and marginalized community,” Arnold said. “He grew up in poverty, with no role models and disorganized caregiving.  His main caregiver during many of his formative years was his grandmother, who reportedly was a bootlegger and an alcoholic.

“He regularly walked to school past individuals committing crimes. He had no ongoing support and no direction. “

The judge said Simmonds’ criminal record was “unenviable” but has a 10-year gap in his involvement in trafficking.

“He has a young son and a stable relationship. He has expressed remorse. He has community support. He has demonstrated an ability to abide by strict conditions for the past three years.”

Arnold said the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has emphasized that denunciation and deterrence are of paramount importance when sentencing an offender for trafficking crack.

“That said, restraint, rehabilitation and reformation do have some role to play in crafting a sentence specific to Mr. Simmonds and his crime,” he said.

The judge said a combination of prison time and probation would “properly satisfy the principles of sentencing engaged in this case.

“It will give the criminal justice system five more years of control and supervision over Mr. Simmonds,” Arnold said. “It will address the need for general and specific deterrence, and it should allow for rehabilitation and reformation. It will give Mr. Simmonds a chance to become a pro-social member of society.”

Simmonds will have to complete 100 hours of community service and observe a 9 p.m.-6 a.m. for the first 18 months of his probationary period.

The judge also prohibited him from having any firearms for 20 years after his release from prison and ordered him to provide a DNA sample for a national databank.

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