FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal recently upheld a Fort St. John man’s convictions regarding a June 2018 seizure of cocaine found on a ship in Halifax Harbour.
Darcy Peter Bailey, 51, of Fort St. John and Matthew Ross Lambert, 38, of Richmond, were found guilty in the Halifax provincial court in 2020 of four drug trafficking offences.
The offences were conspiracy to traffic cocaine, conspiracy to import cocaine, attempting to traffic the drugs and attempted possession for the purpose of trafficking.
The attempted possession charge was stayed, or stopped, by the judge before sentencing.
Bailey was sentenced to 11.5 years in prison, while Lambert was sentenced to 14 years.
The men appealed their convictions, meaning they asked a higher court to review the case to ensure the court did not make a mistake.
The men claimed the trial judge made a mistake in reducing the seriousness of the police conduct that the judge found had breached the men’s charter rights and failed to consider the impact of the charter breaches properly.
The men also said Judge Elizabeth Buckle misapprehended the evidence by finding that Lambert undeniably waived his right to counsel when he was arrested.
The men argued they should have been acquitted on the charge of conspiracy to import cocaine because there was a reasonable inference they were simply involved in trying to retrieve the drugs once it arrived in Canada.
They asked the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal to reanalyze the charter breaches, exclude the evidence from the trial, enter acquittals on all charges, or order a new trial.
The pair requested that the court reverse their convictions for conspiracy to import cocaine, enter acquittals on that charge and send the case back to the trial judge for sentencing on the remaining convictions or order a new trial on the conspiracy charge.
A three-judge panel that included Justice Anne Derrick, David Farrar and Cindy Bourgeois heard the appeals in November 2022 and dismissed them in a unanimous decision released recently.
“The trial judge showed an impressive capacity to deal with this challenging, complex case: in her painstaking attention to detail in her voir dire and trial decisions, her comprehensive and authoritative grasp of the legal principles involved, and her sure-footed treatment of the evidence and argument. There is no basis for disturbing her conclusions, and I would dismiss these appeals,” wrote Derrick for the panel.
The Harold said the Arica docked at the Halterm Container Terminal in Halifax on June 9th, 2018.
With a remotely operated vehicle, a video inspection was conducted on the ship’s hull, the watertight body of a ship.
The video inspection detected an “anomaly” in the sea chest, a grated chamber on the bottom of the vessel.
Lambert and Bailey were arrested that evening in a vehicle police stopped after leaving Black Rock Beach at Point Pleasant Park, near the container terminal.
Bailey was found wearing a wet dive suit. An underwater propulsion device, diving gear and wrenches were also located in the SUV.
A couple of hours later, a diver hired by the Canada Border Services Agency found 157 kilograms of cocaine in the ship’s underwater compartment.
A pair of Ontario men also stood trial with Lambert and Bailey; however, they were eventually acquitted.
Prosecutors alleged the men planned to remove the drugs from the ship in Montreal but decided not to due to bad weather and strong currents, according to the Chronicle Harold.
The defence lawyer argued the evidence suggested an innocent explanation that Lambert and Bailey were diving in Halifax for algae as part of Bailey’s business, Ocean Plastic Alliance.
On June 7th, 2018, the Facebook page for the Ocean Plastic Alliance posted, “Been so busy these last few months, Colombia, Dominica, Montreal, and now Halifax! Trying to locate the feed source for the invasive algae that is killing our Oceans coral reefs!”
The next and last post on the page, shared on May 10th, 2019, said the company will be taking “the rest of the year” to regroup and said it is going through some “growth pains and restructuring.”
The post was signed with “warmest regards” from Darcy Peter Bailey.
Despite the evidence presented, Buckle said she could not reasonably conclude that Lambert and Bailey were involved in an innocent activity, said the Chronicle Harold.
The judge said an interest in ocean plastics and algae didn’t explain the men’s focus on the Arica or Lambert’s efforts to be secretive about their activities.
According to the Chronicle Harold, Buckle acquitted the Ontario men, believing they agreed to help remove an illegal commodity from the ship. However, she wasn’t convinced they knew it was cocaine.
In the appeal decision put forward by the B.C. men, Derrick said she was satisfied the trial judge did not commit any errors of law or principle in her analysis of the charter breaches.
The judge concluded the convictions for conspiracy to import cocaine were “firmly grounded in the evidence.”
“In challenging the trial judge’s factual findings, the appellants, dissatisfied with her assessment of the evidence, have effectively sought to obtain a different outcome on appeal,” Derrick wrote.
“Their ‘it could have been merely a retrieval operation’ argument was rejected by the trial judge following a thoughtful and legally correct analysis.”
In addition to his drug-related charges, Lambert was one of 13 men convicted of aggravated assault for their involvement in the stabbing and beating of an inmate at the Dartmouth jail in December 2019, said the Chronicle Harold.
Lambert will be sentenced next month on the assault charge.
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