SUMMERSIDE — Given her horrendous past and almost a decade of drug use, Judge Jeff Lantz was surprised that 19-year-old Samantha Durant Bell had not been in his court before now.
Tuesday, the pale, gaunt young woman, who began using morphine at age 10, was sentenced in Lantz’s Summerside courtroom to five months behind bars for a long list of crimes that spanned just a matter of weeks.
The crimes were done to feed Durant’s drug addiction. The charges against the young woman included possession of stolen property, trafficking stolen property, break and enter, uttering forged documents, theft and failing to attend court.
“It’s remarkable she hasn’t been in before this,” said Lantz while sentencing Durant to jail time. “She’s in, in a big way now. It was just a matter of time before she was caught given the state she was in.”
The judge admitted given Durant’s prolonged drug use and addiction “the fact that she was caught is probably the best thing for her.”
After failing to appear for a scheduled court date in late October, Durant was arrested late last week and has since been able to get the drugs out of her system.
“She is in a frame of mind now she can concentrate on getting better. It won’t be easy,” said Lantz.
Nothing in Durant’s life has been easy, her lawyer Trish Cheverie told the court.
At age 10, she began using her morphine, which was prescribed to her ailing mother for bone disease, and soon after began using crack cocaine.
“Her background is awful,” said Cheverie.
Five years ago, Durant woke one morning to find her mother dead and has been on her own.
She’s been for treatment at Mount Herbert four times, the latest in September.
“She could not stay straight,” said Cheverie, who added that when Durant was arrested she was homeless and using.
It was in June that her drug fueled crime spree began.
The most serious of Durant’s crimes was breaking in to a Schurmans Point home where thousands of dollars of electronics were stolen by she and her boyfriend.
Durant and her co-accused, who is now behind bars, later sold the items, including a flat screen television, for drug money.
Crown attorney John Diamond said given the seriousness and the number of crimes committed by Durant, who had no previous record, a six-month jail sentence was appropriate.
Cheverie argued that given Durant’s rocky past, drug use and lack of a record she should receive less time in jail.
“Starting her out with a six-month sentence would be harsh,” said the defence attorney, who recommended three to four months in jail. “She does need time in custody.”
Lantz sentenced Durant to five months behind bars.
“It might be the best spot for her,” said the judge. “It will give her a half of a change of getting back on the straight and narrow,” said the judge.
Durant was ordered to pay thousands of dollars in restitution, write a letter of apology to the couple’s home she had broken in to and to stay away from the businesses and individuals she victimized. She was also ordered to stay away from the city pawnshop where she sold stolen merchandise.
As part of her 24 months of probation, Durant must undergo assessment, counselling and treatment for any additions and mental health issues.