Lady Justice in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Judge says B.C. drug dealer was ready for ‘gun warfare’

The Crown and defence argued for a five-year sentence but Justice Catherine Murray handed him eight

A judge has handed a Surrey drug dealer a stiffer sentence than what the Crown and defence asked for, noting that drug dealing-related violence in Surrey is “out of control.”

Jagdeep Singh Cheema has been sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to drug trafficking and firearms-related crimes after the presiding judge rejected a five-year joint submission presented by the Crown and defence.

Justice Catherine Murray, who sentenced Cheema in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, noted that “drug dealing is at the heart of the violence plaguing our country. In Surrey, the problem is out of control.”

The judge said Cheema “was obviously ready and willing to engage in gun warfare” and had used his family’s home as the hub of his drug operation. “It is located in a residential area in Surrey” she noted. “Given the violence that is an inherent part of drug trafficking and in which the accused was willing to engage, the accused put his family and other people in the neighbourhood at risk.”

“I am not satisfied that the sentence proposed by counsel satisfies the public interest test,” the judge said in her reasons for sentencing posted Nov. 21. “Rather, it is my view that it would bring the administration of justice into disrepute and cause informed, reasonable people to lose faith in the criminal justice system. Accordingly, I cannot accede to the joint submission.”

Jagdeep Singh Cheema pleaded guilty to one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking heroin, a count of possession for the purpose of trafficking in heroin and fentanyl, and possession of a restricted Spikes Warthog semiautomatic gun, with ammo, possession of a Spikes Hellbreaker semiautomatic gun with ammo, and unsafe storage of a Core-15 semiautomatic gun and a Spikes Kel Tec Sub 2000 9mm-calibre gun.

“Drug trafficking is a problem of epic proportion,” Murray noted. “Drugs are destructive, They ruin lives. Drug wars are at the centre of the extreme violence that that is taking place all too often on our streets. It has to stop. Courts have a responsibility to play in that. This sentence must send a message that is loud and clear.”

She said violence associated with drug dealing and turf wars has reached an “unprecedented” level in Canada. “The Crown, in the course of sentencing submissions, stated that there have been over 200 reported incidents of shootings in Surrey since the offence date August 2015.”

She also noted that articles leading up to the Oct. 20 civic election in this city indicated “that the top concern of citizens in Surrey is gun violence. They feel unsafe in their community.”

Meantime, Murray stayed charges against Jagdeep’s brother, Gurpreet Singh Cheema. The judge gave Jagdeep time-and-a-half credit for the 322 days he’d already spent in custody, which works out to 483 days.

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Police on July 27, 2015 received a 911 call concerning an alleged assault, possible shooting and unlawful confinement at a split-level house on 128th Street where the brothers lived with their parents. Police armed with a search warrant searched the place about a week later, on Aug. 3, when the brothers were home. Gurpreet was in a bedroom upstairs, playing video games. The court heard police found in this room ID in Jagdeep’s name, baggies, nitrile, latex gloves, a scale and dial-a-dope business cards.

The court heard that police found in Jagdeep’s room heroin, cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamine, bundles of cash. body armour, a dozen cellphones, score sheets, a box of passports, ID, and credit and debit cards in various names. They also found four stolen restricted rifles on a kitchen table in a basement suite.

“It is admitted that the accused was running a mid-level drug operation in which he trafficked to other traffickers and/or street level dealers,” Murray said in her reasons. “It is further admitted that the accused possessed the firearms to further his drug operation.”

“Of significance,” the judge said, Jagdeep was on bail for assault with a weapon and mischief charges “at the time of this offence” and “one of the conditions of that bail was that he was not to possess any weapons.

“That condition clearly had no impact on the accused.”

Bundles of cash — over $5,100 — were also found in the house, and the “significant” amount of drugs included 163.77 grams of heroin worth $32,750, 198 baggies of powder cocaine — 83.32 grams in total — and 41.6 grams of crack cocaine.

“These are all highly addictive, destructive substances,” Murray noted. “Drug traffickers like the accused are responsible for ultimately putting drugs in the hands of drug users. That, in my view, makes them responsible for shattering lives. Some of the heroin was laced with fentanyl. It is not known how much of the heroin contained fentanyl.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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