June 25, 2013 - 1:53 PM
VERNON - A young drug dealer has gotten herself out of a jail cell and into a recovery home for the time being because she's pregnant.
Lauren Pollon, 24, was in court Monday for sentencing on multiple drug trafficking charges, but Provincial court judge Mayland McKimm stalled his decision, hoping to give an influential court case time to conclude.
B.C.'s cancelled Mother-Baby Program, which allowed inmates to care for their newborns while in prison, is currently before the courts. Two women who narrowly missed the program before it was sacked in 2008 are involved in the legal battle, and their lawyer argues the cancellation violated both their and their babies' constitutional rights.
The Mother-Baby trial is expected to wrap up this summer, before Pollon's new sentencing date in October. Until then, Pollon, seven months pregnant, will reside at a recovery centre in Kelowna. She must undergo one month of counselling prior to delivery if she wants to keep her baby in her arms, rather than in the Ministry of Children's.
"It doesn't trouble me to send you to prison," McKimm said. "If you want to deal drugs and ruin hundreds of peoples' lives, you should go to jail."
Pollon used drugs in her teenage years, but prior to last summer had no criminal record.
"She's gotten herself in a heap of trouble fairly quickly," Crown lawyer Clarke Burnett said.
Last September, Pollon was identified in an undercover drug investigation on the streets of Vernon. She was found to be part of a dial-a-dope operation, peddling cocaine. Charges weren't laid until November, however, because the investigation was ongoing.
In January, Pollon was caught by Princeton RCMP with 95 packs of crack cocaine, a quantity of pills, and an outstanding warrant. She was released on strict conditions.
A month later, RCMP executed a search warrant at a Vernon apartment where they found Pollon, 31 grams of powder cocaine, 21 grams of crack cocaine, methamphetamine, Ecstacy, Oxycodone and weigh scales. She's been in custody ever since.
Pollon told police she broke her bail conditions and continued dealing because she had a debt to settle after a load of drugs were seized by police in Princeton.
"My belief is she's working to pay it (debt) off, but also to fuel her own lifestyle," Burnett said. "These types of offenses warrant time in jail."
Burnett asked McKimm to consider a total of 15 consecutive months of jail time.
Defense lawyer Claire Abbott described Pollon as being "genuinely on her road to recovery" and proposed a 12-month conditional sentence order, served outside of jail so she could have a chance at remaining with her newborn.
Pollon dropped out of school in Grade 10 when she became pregnant for the first time. She remained "diligently clean" during the pregnancy and for seven years after it, Abbott said. During that time, Pollon had a second son, who is now three. Both boys live out of province with their fathers, though Pollon's mother is seeking custody.
Pollon was living in Grand Prairie for several years, but came back to B.C. last year and "got mixed up with her old friends," Abbott said. She found out she was pregnant on New Year's Eve, nevertheless continuing to deal drugs. She would have stopped after the Princeton arrest, but she owed money for the lost drugs and feared "serious injury" if she didn't come up with the cash, Abbott said.
Pollon is unique in that she was with child at the time of her arrest. Abbott said the first year of a baby's life is "crucial time for the mother and child" and asked McKimm to consider the ramifications of seeing them separated. At the moment, there would be no way for her to stay with her baby unless she is given a conditional sentence order. Having the Mother-Baby program reinstated could affect how she does her time.
"The major concern is not just losing the child to the Ministry, but to that first year... missing out on the parent-child bonding," Abbott said.
McKimm requested a pre-sentence report and delayed giving a decision until October, when he hopes completion of the Mother-Baby trial will offer some "clarity" on the subject.
"My primary obligation is to protect society from Ms. Pollon and people like Ms. Pollon," McKimm said. "If there was ever inspiration to turn your life around, it's got to be having a child."
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250)309-5230, or tweet @charhelston
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013