'Socially isolated' Vernon man gets jail time for chauffeuring fentanyl dealer | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Socially isolated' Vernon man gets jail time for chauffeuring fentanyl dealer

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
January 24, 2020 - 7:30 AM

A 44-year old Vernon man who was living with his parents and described as socially isolated, has been sentenced to 18 months behind bars for his part in selling small amounts of fentanyl to an undercover police officer.

The defence had argued Jeffery Christopher Hassink was not involved in the drug trade and just the driver of the vehicle when the passenger unknowingly sold an undercover RCMP officers fentanyl in April 2018.

"The very nature of the offence is very unusual," defence lawyer Glenn Verdurmen told the court. "He's not an addict and he's not doing this to make money."

Hassink was arrested during an RCMP surveillance operation in April 2018. Hassink was driving a vehicle when the passenger Nolan Charles Scott, born 1983, sold 0.2 grams of a fentanyl/heroin mixture to an undercover police officer. Exactly the same offence then happened the following day and the pair were arrested.

Scott pled guilty to the charges, along with four separate drug trafficking charges, and was sentenced in Abbotsford in January 2019 to three years jail time.

Hassink plead not guilty but Judge Richard Hewson didn’t buy it, and convicted him of both charges in July 2019.

Sitting in the Vernon courtroom with his parents on Wednesday, Jan. 22, the court heard how Hassink was a socially isolated person, and he’d met Scott while skateboarding, and was trying to make a friend.

While Hassink had had previous alcohol and crack cocaine issues he was in remission at the time of the offence. The court also heard that Hassink was a qualified carpenter and worked all over the province making $40 an hour.

“There’s no evidence to say he was getting a financial cut… although he should have known better,” Verdurmen said.

Verdurmen argued Hassink should receive a conditional sentence and serve no jail time due to exceptional circumstances.

The Crown disagreed, arguing for two years jail pointing to a court ruling that mandated harsher sentences for dealing fentanyl over other drugs. Crown lawyer Michelle Reinhardt said they were no exceptional circumstances in Hassink’s case.

Reinhardt said Hassink had previous drug convictions, as well a criminal record for firearms possession and breaches of probation. The Crown lawyer pointed out Hassink was under a conditional sentence order from Alberta at the time of the offence.

Reinhardt said his not guilty plea meant it was difficult to assess Hassink’s motivation for the offence or the extent of his involvement, but he had not indicted remorse or taken responsibility.

Verdurmen argued Hassink was motivated by trying to make a friend.

Judge Richard Hewson disagreed.

“He was driving a drug trafficker to drug deals,” he said.

The judge said while Hassink had denied knowledge of the transaction during the trial he had not believed him.

“Mr. Hassink has no obligation to express remorse… but the absence of remorse in this case, means that Mr. Hassink can't claim to have acknowledged the harm he did to the community by being involved in trafficking offences,” judge Hewson said.

“The introduction of fentanyl into our community has led to a rapid increase in numbers of deaths by fentanyl overdose,” Hewson said. “The people that are dying are our neighbours, they are our friends and in many cases, our family, every person that has died from fentanyl has a family like Mr. Hassink’s.”

Judge Hewson said he’d not been persuaded that this was a case of exceptional circumstances that warranted a non-custodial sentence.

The judge sentenced Hassink to 18 months in jail, a firearms ban, but no probation.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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