Court reduces sentence after trial judge with vertigo questions his own fairness

VANCOUVER – The B.C. Court of Appeal has reduced a man’s sentence to 18 months from two years after the trial judge said he was suffering from a sudden vertigo problem and questioned his own fairness.

Peter Hancock pleaded guilty to one count of possessing heroin for the purpose of trafficking, and his lawyer suggested a sentence of one year.

The Crown suggested two years and the judge asked Hancock if he wanted to serve 18 months in a provincial jail or two years in the federal system.

Hancock seemed to be reluctant in choosing a federal sentence.

The next day, the judge had Hancock brought back to court and said he might have been unwell when he imposed the sentence and couldn’t say if he acted impartially.

But the judge said he couldn’t change the sentence and suggested an appeal, and the Crown conceded it would be appropriate for the appeal court to substitute a sentence that Hancock would likely have received if the judge had been well.

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