An RCMP officer who stole more than 300 pills from an evidence room in Montague was sentenced Thursday to serve 18 months in jail.
Blair Ross, who served with the RCMP for about 25 years, appeared before Justice Gordon Campbell in P.E.I. Supreme Court in Charlottetown after previously pleading guilty to breach of trust, theft over $5,000 and unlawful possession of drugs.
The sentence came after a joint recommendation from the Crown and defence that included two years of probation after Ross's release from jail.
Before hearing the sentence, Ross addressed the court, at which time he apologized to his family and other members of the RCMP for the embarrassment he caused the organization.
"I'm truly, truly sorry," he said.
Ross then sat down and cried.
During the proceedings, the court heard that in May, 2013, the RCMP's major crimes unit was contacted after problems were found with evidence in the Montague detachment's evidence locker.
One of the officers at the detachment found that prescription pills that were in evidence were missing.
When other officers searched the room for the drugs they noticed other problems, including loose pills in boxes and evidence bags that were opened with pills missing.
A further search found that most of the items in evidence were accounted for, but morphine, oxycodone, Percocet and hydromorphone pills were missing from several files.
Ross later gave a statement in which he admitted to replacing some pills with generic Aspirin, while on another file he destroyed exhibits to cover up his theft.
In total, more than 300 pills were unaccounted for and Ross eventually pleaded guilty to the charges against him.
Ross was arrested on May 31, 2013 and gave a statement a few days later, at which time he said he had severe back pain, but the prescription painkillers he was taking weren't sufficient while he was at work wearing his gun belt.
He told the investigators he was afraid that if he asked for a higher prescription the RCMP would find out and he might be put on restricted duty.
Throughout most of the court proceedings Ross sat with his head down, but when it came time to rise he struggled to his feet and walked with a noticeable limp when he later circled the defence table.
In his statement to police, Ross said he originally started taking pills from completed investigations, but eventually took them from active investigations, although he only stole drugs that could be prescribed for pain.
Crown attorney John Diamond characterized Ross's actions as a serious breach of trust and said the thefts weren't impulsive.
Diamond said the integrity of police forces must be maintained at the highest level.
Defense lawyer Mitch MacLeod agreed Ross's actions were a breach of trust, but said the steps he took to cover the crime spoke to his desperation and not the sophistication of his actions.
MacLeod said Ross was genuinely remorseful and he was unlikely to reoffend.
About 20 people were in the courtroom for the sentencing and MacLeod said most of them were Ross's former colleagues who were there to support him.
In handing down the sentence, Campbell said Ross's activities damaged the police's reputation, which hurt everyone and by destroying evidence he put his fellow officers' work at risk.
Although he said Ross won't commit the same offence again, Campbell added that the sentence must be strong enough to remind people in positions of trust they will face penalties if they breach that trust.
Given Ross's guilty plea, the loss of his career and the difficulties a police officer would face as an inmate the sentence recommendation was within the acceptable range, Campbell said.
He then sentenced Ross to 18 months in jail for the breach of trust, one year for theft over $5,000 and one year for unlawful possession of the drugs, all to be served concurrently.
Along with the jail time Ross will be on probation for two years upon his release and will have to pay $300 to the victims of crime fund.