Nanaimo Courthouse. (News Bulletin file photo)

Nanaimo Courthouse. (News Bulletin file photo)

‘Disregard for human life:’ Nanaimo fentanyl trafficker gets four-year sentence

Michael Damien Byrne was arrested as part of 2017 bust

A drug trafficker with a long history of convictions, deemed by a judge to be “indifferent to the lives he was putting at risk,” will be behind bars for another two and a half years.

Michael Damien Byrne, 42, was sentenced earlier this spring to four years, with credit for 18 months served, for possession of fentanyl/heroin and fentanyl/carfentanil with the purpose of trafficking, and possession of brass knuckles in a vehicle.

The judgment came down in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo on April 6 and was published June 1.

Byrne, who had six convictions for possession for the purpose of trafficking from 2006-2011, was caught as part of a bust in May 2017. Nanaimo RCMP reported at the time that five adults were arrested at two locations, and evidence seized included 57 grams of suspected opioids, 85 grams of cocaine, 241 grams of methamphetamine, numerous weapons and more than $24,000 in cash.

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The court judgment notes that police surveillance in April and May of that year led officers to conclude that Byrne was involved in “dial-a-dope” transactions out of a motel room in central Nanaimo. A search of the room found small amounts of fentanyl/heroin, fentanyl/carfentanil, and methamphetamine, a mortar and pestle, mixing bowls and scales, as well as two hatchets and a pellet gun. A search of his vehicle yielded approximately 16 grams of heroin/fentanyl and the judgment notes that the “fentanyl purity differed in each baggie.”

“While Mr. Byrne concedes that he was not on the lowest rung of this drug trafficking organization, he submits that the evidence does not support a characterization of his activities as being other than as a low-level operator,” noted Justice Douglas Thompson in his judgment.

Byrne’s sentencing began in April 2019, but Byrne, who was on bail at the time “absconded during the mid-morning break,” the judgment notes, and “was arrested in due course.”

The judge characterized Byrne’s possession for the purpose of trafficking offences as very serious.

“The variation and extent of purity levels of fentanyl in the heroin/fentanyl mixture is alarming…” the judgment notes. “The presence of the mortar and pestle in Mr. Byrne’s motel room indicates a rudimentary mixing method that exposes users to risk at a level that shows disregard for human life.”

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editor@nanaimobulletin.com

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