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Second B.C. man sentenced in Halifax for cocaine conspiracy

Darcy Peter Bailey, rear, is escorted into Halifax provincial court in 2018 to face charges in connection with the seizure of 157 kilograms of cocaine found hidden on the bottom of a container ship.
Darcy Peter Bailey, rear, is led into court in 2018 to face charges in connection with the seizure of 157 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a compartment on the bottom of a container ship in Halifax. - Eric Wynne

A second British Columbia man has been handed a lengthy prison sentence for his involvement in the importation of 157 kilograms of cocaine found hidden on the bottom of a container ship in Halifax in June 2018.

Darcy Peter Bailey, 49, of Fort St. John was found guilty in July on four charges following a trial in Halifax provincial court.

He was sentenced last week to 11.5 years in a federal penitentiary for the offence of conspiracy to import cocaine, less remand credit of 72 days, for a net sentence of 11 years and 110 days.

Judge Elizabeth Buckle gave Bailey nine years concurrent for conspiracy to traffic cocaine, and nine years concurrent for attempting to traffic the drugs. She also imposed a lifetime firearms prohibition and ordered him to provide a DNA sample for a national databank.

The fourth charge, attempting to possess cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, was stayed by the judge prior to sentencing.

Buckle said the appropriate overall sentence was 12.5 years, but she deducted one year, primarily as mitigation for breaches of Bailey’s charter rights by police after his arrest.

“Denunciation and deterrence require that Mr. Bailey be sentenced to a significant period of incarceration,” Buckle said in her decision.

“These are very serious offences. … This case involved the importation of a large quantity of a dangerous drug. The tremendous harm that comes from cocaine has been repeatedly commented upon by our Court of Appeal and can be seen in this and other courts every day.”

Courts view the importation of cocaine as a more serious offence than trafficking cocaine, the judge said.

“The offences I’ve convicted Mr. Bailey of capture a broad range of culpability, ranging from the courier or mule to the owner-importer or owner-trafficker,” she said. “Where the offender fits in that hierarchy is relevant to sentencing - the higher the position, the higher the sentence.”

Matthew Ross Lambert, 36, of Richmond, B.C., was convicted of the same charges and received a 14-year sentence in October.

Buckle said there was no evidence that Lambert and Bailey were owner-importers or owner-traffickers but she was persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt that they agreed to recover the cocaine from an underwater compartment on the ship and transport it to someone else for sale.

They tried to remove the drugs from the Arica in Montreal but were deterred by bad weather and strong currents, forcing them to divert to Halifax, the ship’s next port of call.

The Arica docked in Halifax on the morning of June 9, 2018.  A video inspection of the ship’s hull by a remotely operated vehicle detected an anomaly in the sea chest, a grated chamber on the bottom of the vessel.

Bailey and Lambert were arrested that evening in an SUV that was stopped by police after leaving Black Rock Beach at Point Pleasant Park, near the container terminal. Bailey was wearing a wet dive suit and there was diving equipment in the vehicle.

A diver hired by the Canada Border Services Agency discovered the cocaine in the Arica’s sea chest two hours later.

Buckle said the evidence shows that Lambert played a management or leadership role in the “logistically challenging” operation and brought Bailey in because of his diving experience. She said Bailey was actively involved in the planning – tracking the vessel’s movements and researching and sourcing diving equipment - and in the diving in both Montreal and Halifax.

The judge said Bailey had essentially no prior criminal record, with only one unrelated conviction about 30 years ago, and was vulnerable to becoming involved in the enterprise because of a longtime addiction to painkillers and his financial difficulties.

On June 1, 2018, the day Bailey took a flight from B.C. to Montreal, he sent a text to someone saying he was looking at a six-digit payday if he made it back to Vancouver with the package he was going to pick up. In another text a few days later, he said he was collecting a $4-million score and $500,000 was for him.

“Profit was clearly the motive for the offence,” Buckle said.

 “Mr. Bailey’s role was less than his co-accused, Mr. Lambert. He was not at the height of the importing or trafficking hierarchy. He was also not simply a mule carrying drugs over a border for a fee. The recovery team was crucial to the scheme to bring the drugs into Canada. He was a crucial member of that team but was not its leader.”

Crown attorney Angela Nimmo argued for a sentence of 13 to 14 years, while defence lawyer Patrick MacEwen recommended eight to 10 years.

At trial, the judge found a "variety" of violations of Bailey’s charter rights and excluded some evidence. She said police did not have reasonable grounds to arrest Bailey, delayed his right to speak to counsel and left him alone in a room at the police station in his wet dive suit for about two hours.

“The circumstances from Mr. Bailey’s perspective were accurately summarized by his counsel,” Buckle said in her decision. “He was cold and wet. He had no idea how long he would be held in that condition. He had no idea when he would be permitted to speak to counsel and knew that no one other than his co-accused, who was also in custody, knew that he had been arrested.”

She said “the absence of action” by police amounts to mistreatment and is “completely unacceptable.”

“The fact that I granted a trial remedy for these breaches does not preclude me from considering them at sentencing. I am satisfied that these breaches warrant sentence mitigation. Mr. Bailey suffered hardship or punishment at the hands of the state. The way he was treated falls far short of how we expect people in custody to be treated.”

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