Pubdate: Wed, 01 Jun 2016
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Page: A12
Copyright: 2016 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Hannah Spray


With changes to marijuana laws on the horizon, a former star 
athlete's lawyers argue that sending him to jail for marijuana 
trafficking would shock the community and violate the Charter of 
Rights and Freedoms.

Seamus John Neary, 25, was in Saskatoon Court of Queen's Bench 
Tuesday for sentencing arguments after he was found guilty of 
trafficking 9.5 kilograms of marijuana. The crime does not carry a 
mandatory minimum, but federal law changes in 2012 removed the option 
of a conditional sentence order, or jail sentence served in the 
community, for trafficking more than three kilograms of pot.

B.C.-based lawyer John Conroy argued that since then, "the context 
has changed," referring to mandate letters sent by Prime Minister 
Justin Trudeau in November to cabinet ministers, including Justice 
Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, directing them to work on legalizing marijuana.

"Considering the change, of planning to legalize, it elevates the 
consequences to a point where it would shock the conscience of the 
community (to send Neary to jail)," Conroy said.

The Charter-based challenge to the sentencing provisions may not have 
to come into play, however, if Justice Shawn Smith accepts the 
position of Neary's co-counsel, Chris Lavier, who argued a three year 
probation order would be the appropriate sentence.

Probation is an available sentence, although the sentencing range set 
by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal for larger-scale marijuana 
trafficking involves jail time.

Lavier pointed to Neary's extensive volunteering in the community, 
his academic achievements in university and his football career as 
reasons the judge should consider probation. After five years with 
the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, ending in the fall of 2013, 
Neary was invited to the CFL Combine in 2015, where top football 
prospects undergo testing. He was also invited to try out for the 
B.C. Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders.

All those invitations were revoked because of his criminal matters, 
however, showing Neary is already paying a price for his bad choices, 
Lavier argued.

"I suggest he does fit in this very narrow place where you could, 
with confidence, fashion a probation order that would have teeth ... 
and keep him under the watchful eye of the justice system," Lavier 
said. He argued conditions such as house arrest or electronic 
monitoring, plus community service, would send an effective message.

Crown prosecutor Wade McBride argued Neary's exceptional personal 
history should be seen as a double-edged sword, not just as something 
in Neary's favour.

"People who have all the advantages should not be doing this," 
McBride said. "Those are the people ... who need to be deterred."

Regarding Conroy's constitutional argument, McBride argued it 
contained a fatal flaw, because there is no mandatory minimum in 
place. The sentencing provisions allow a probation order, which 
McBride argued was not appropriate for Neary, but which "narrows the 
whole prospect of jail versus conditional sentence order to be 
somewhat of a moot point."

Even under any potential new marijuana laws, McBride said he would 
speculate that commercial trafficking enterprises like Neary's would 
not be tolerated. He argued for a jail sentence of between 15 and 18 months.

Smith is scheduled to give his sentencing decision on June 23.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom