Donna Jayne Howard pleaded guilty to possessing heroin, fentanyl and cocaine for the purpose of trafficking after the RCMP drug unit made a dial-a-dope bust in Surrey.
The maximum sentence is life imprisonment. Howard got a 22-month conditional sentence order, which includes one year of house arrest followed by six months of curfew.
The Crown sought a prison term of 36 months while the defence argued for a suspended sentence with restrictive conditions.
Surrey provincial court Judge Mark Jetté noted in his July 2 reasons for judgment that on Nov. 4, 2017 the Surrey RCMP drug unit spotted a vehicle making short stops in Surrey and Langley consistent with dial-a-dope trafficking, stopped it and arrested two women. Howard was in the passenger seat.
Police seized Howard’s purse and found five dialer bags which all together contained $14,320 in drugs, including 65 spitballs of fentanyl, 155 counterfeit OxyContin pills that were later analyzed to contain fentanyl, 14 spitballs of heroin and 235 baggies of cocaine.
“It is particularly troubling that the dialer bags Ms. Howard was holding contained counterfeit OxyContin pills that contained fentanyl,” the judge said. “These pills would have been particularly dangerous for the unwary street drug user, as well as for those who are not experienced consumers of street drugs.”
Jetté noted that Howard told police that she accepted responsibility for the drugs in her purse.
“More specifically, she said that she was selling drugs, but the driver was not.”
The judge said Howard also told the police she didn’t sell fentanyl because a friend had died from an overdose, “and that to the best of her knowledge she did not have any fentanyl in her purse. She was unaware of anyone overdosing on fentanyl who had purchased drugs from the line she worked for.”
Howard also told police she was a former addict who cleaned up in jail, that she was on methadone, and that she’d been selling drugs because she could not find work.
Her own lawyer, however, told the court she was not, in fact, a recovered addict and that she was selling drugs to fuel her addiction.
Howard, 38, now resides near Terrace and has a criminal record that includes two convictions for impaired driving, break and enter, theft under and breach of probation as well as a conviction in 2012 for trafficking for which she received an eight-month conditional sentence order, or house arrest.
The court heard she breached that order in 2013 and the CSO was terminated. In 2012, the judge noted, Howard told the author of a pre-sentence report that she’d been selling drugs on the Whalley strip.
Jetté noted in sentencing that Howard has managed to abstain from using illegal drugs since 2018, has expressed “sincere remorse,” and has made efforts to turn her life around.
“I am satisfied that a penitentiary term is not required in this case,” the judge found.
“I am also satisfied that Ms. Howard can be supervised in the community without endangering the safety of the community. In coming to this decision, I have considered the progress she has made on her own since this offence was committed.”
For the first year of her CSO, Jetté said, Howard “must obey house arrest” by being inside her home at Thornhill, B.C. or on its lot, 24 hours a day.
She can visit her children in Surrey, however, with prior written permission. For six months following her house arrest, she must keep a curfew between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. daily.
During the 22 months she must not possess or consume alcohol or drugs and must participate in counselling as directed by her conditional sentence supervisor.