Vertigo Judge Reduces Trafficking Sentence Over Fairness

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VANCOUVER - The B.C. Court of Appeal has reduced a man's sentence to 18 months from two years after the trial judge said he was suffering from a sudden vertigo problem and questioned his own fairness.

Peter Hancock pleaded guilty to one count of possessing heroin for the purpose of trafficking, and his lawyer suggested a sentence of one year.

The Crown wanted two years and the judge asked Hancock if he preferred to serve 18 months in a provincial jail or two years in the federal system.

"I guess federal," Hancock replied.

The next day, the judge had Hancock brought back to court and said he might have been unwell when he imposed the sentence and couldn't say if he acted impartially.

"He stated that shortly after the sentencing he became unwell with a sudden onset vertigo problem," the appeal court decision said.

"He was concerned that he could not say when the symptoms came upon him and he might have been unwell when he imposed the sentence on the appellant the previous day."

Hancock wanted the judge to change the sentence to provincial time but the judge said it was too late for him to do that and suggested an appeal.

The unusual circumstances had the Crown conceding that it would be appropriate for the appeal court judges to substitute a sentence that the trial judge likely would have imposed had he been well.

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