Judge quadruples prison time for B.C. Hells Angel
British Columbia's highest court has more than quadrupled the drug sentence for a man it says is a full member of the Hells Angels.
The Court of Appeal on Thursday struck down a 14-month sentence given to John Virgil Punko and instead imposed a jail term of five years and two months.
The appeal court ruled that B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Leask was too lenient with his original sentence last March. It said Leask did not take into account the damage the drug trade does to the community.
"The trial judge erred in principle in his assessment of the gravity of Mr. Punko's offence," Justice Kenneth Smith wrote in the ruling.
"This error led him to give insufficient weight to denunciation and deterrence, which are the primary sentencing factors on this offence."
Punko was convicted of trafficking 50 kilograms of methamphetamines and five kilograms of cocaine after a two-year RCMP investigation that targeted the Hells Angels chapter in east Vancouver.
The Crown had asked that Punko receive about seven years of jail time for each of his two convictions and appealed the 14-month sentence as "demonstrably unfit."
Smith said the fundamental principle that a sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender was not appropriately observed.
Justice David Tysoe, also of the appeal court, said Leask's approach to the sentence was flawed in that he gave undue weight to mitigating factors like Punko's guilty plea and police conduct.
Between 2004 and 2005, RCMP paid tens of thousands of dollars to purchase the methamphetamines as part of its sting.
The court heard Punko took a sabbatical from his job as an elevator repairman in 2003 in order to become a full Hells Angels member.
He had been convicted of obstruction of justice in 2002 after he threatened the prosecutor at another trial involving Hells Angels members.
Punko and three other Hells Angels members were acquitted last year of committing crimes for the benefit of a criminal organization.