Kent guard sentenced for drug trafficking in prison

Paul Fleming handed three-and-a-half year sentence for breach of trust, drug trafficking

Former Kent Institution prison guard Paul Fleming was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail for bringing drugs into the maximum security institution.

Former Kent Institution prison guard Paul Fleming was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail for bringing drugs into the maximum security institution.

“I can’t hug you.”

Those were Paul Fleming’s last words to his weeping mother as a sheriff led him out of court and off to prison last Thursday.

The former Kent Institution guard was sentenced in a Chilliwack courtroom to three-and-a-half years in prison for bringing marijuana and crystal methamphetamine into the jail for inmates.

In sentencing Fleming for breach of trust and possession for the purpose of trafficking, Judge Kenneth Skilnick called the offences “very serious,” and an “egregious breach of trust.”

“This is an offence that causes tremendous harm,” Skilnick said.

“It is a very serious matter when a corrections officer turns his back on his responsibilities, on his fellow corrections officers and betrays the trust . . . of all Canadians.”

It was Boxing Day 2012 when Fleming, of Agassiz, was arrested at Kent and charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance.

He was found with $2,000 cash, 73 grams of marijuana and 3.2 grams of crystal meth, the latter of which caused the most concern for the sentencing judge.

“The effect of that particular substance is very harmful to society,” Skilnick said. “Turned loose on the population of a prison represents a considerable problem.”

In his defence, lawyer Richard Ballantyne argued that Fleming was under considerable psychological pressure, he was “broken emotionally,” and the decision to bring drugs into the prison was out of character.

Ballantyne painted a picture of a man in constant back pain, suffering from a lack of sleep and, most importantly, wracked with angst about a near-shooting incident.

In 2011, Fleming was involved in an incident in the gym at the maximum security prison where he had to draw his gun on an inmate, nearly needing to use lethal force.

“He constantly had visions of pointing his gun,” Ballantyne told the court. “This fear of ‘what if’ was much worse than if he had shot him.”

The lawyer argued further that the near shooting brought back terrible childhood memories for Fleming of finding his brother who died accidentally.

There were about a dozen people in the courtroom on Thursday, some having travelled from far away, according to Ballantyne, to support the 43-year-old. Ballantyne read excerpts from letters of support from former neighbours, acquaintances and his mother and sister, both of whom were in attendance.

Ballantyne read from a letter written by Tulsi Hardas the owner of West Star Motors, who was in attendance, who hired Fleming in February 2013 to work at his Chilliwack business. Hardas said Fleming was “a dream come true” employee who he entrusted with the keys and the code for the shop’s alarm.

All the letters asked for leniency in sentencing Fleming.

In responding to the defence notion that the near-shooting incident triggered something in Fleming that was out of character, Crown counsel Sharon Steele argued there was no clear nexus between the incident and the choice to traffic drugs into Kent.

“The choice to bring drugs into a prisons is a conscious, calculated, premeditated decision,” Steele said.

In responding to the large number of letters of support, Skilnick noted that none of them took note of the serious nature of the crime.

“I also note the letters don’t address the significance of a person in Mr. Fleming’s position committing this offence.”

Crown asked for four years in prison, while defence argued the minimum, two years, was suitable.

Skilnick said the case was not appropriate for the minimum because of the “tremendously aggravating circumstance” in that Fleming was a corrections officer.

Skilnick sentenced Fleming to three years, six months for the breach of trust and two years for the drug trafficking to be served concurrently.

Asked if he wanted to address the court, choking back tears Fleming said, “I apologize. I’ve affected my family. I’m sorry this happened. I’m sorry I put everybody through this.”

Experts say that drugs have long been a problem in Canadian prisons. Often they are smuggled in by visitors, thrown over walls, or in at least one other B.C. case, brought in by a guard.

In 2009, North Fraser Pretrial guard Roger Moore was convicted of four counts of drug trafficking and sentenced to four years in jail.

– with a file from The Province

Just Posted

A Milbert’s tortoiseshell rests on a flower. Nature Chilliwack says butterfly gardens for every stage of life are possible using plants native to the area. (Photo/Nature Chilliwack)
Nature Chilliwack offers butterfly garden tips

Gardens can be created using local plants, the nature club says

(Photo/Mary-Jean Coyle)
Community Camera for June 11, 2021

Submit your photos to news@ahobserver.com

Jacqueline Pearce and Jean-Pierre Antonio received the BC Historical Federation Best Article Award on Saturday for their story about translating haiku written in the Tashme internment camp.
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

(Adam Louis/Observer)
PHOTOS: Students leap into action in track events at Kent Elementary

At Kent Elementary, when the sun’s outside, the fun’s outside. The intermediate… Continue reading

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Most Read