After arguing the dangers of catching Covid-19 in North Slave Correctional Complex (NSCC), convicted drug dealer Darcy Oake has decided to stay put until he is sentenced later this year.
In a surprise move in Supreme Court on Friday, Oake withdrew his bail application and parted ways with lawyer Peter Harte, with court filings stating: “The relationship between the accused and counsel has broken down.”
This as Justice Shannon Smallwood was to render her decision on his bail application following a hearing that lasted three and a half hours and heard from two witnesses and Oake.
“It is somewhat unusual, once a decision is under consideration by a judge, for an application to be abandoned,” said Smallwood. “I can give you a decision … but you’re content to stay in custody then pending the sentencing?”
“I am, yeah,” replied Oake, 25, via video link from the jail.
On Tuesday, Oake said the only sure way to avoid Covid-19 in the jail is to isolate in your cell, as it’s impossible to maintain safe distances.
Warden John Nahanni testified that as of that morning, three inmates at NSCC had been tested after showing symptoms of the novel coronavirus that causes the dangerous respiratory disease, but all were cleared.
He said every new inmate is screened for signs of illness first by front-line corrections staff, then by registered nurses.
The jail is below capacity and there is no double-bunking.
Third defence counsel for Oake
In March, a group of 15 defence lawyers – including Harte – petitioned the NWT government to explain plans for handling Covid-19 and release inmates when possible to protect them from any outbreak.
Earlier this month, justice minister Caroline Wawzonek announced seven inmates had been granted temporary absences. Each had fewer than three months left on their sentences.
In January, Smallwood found Oake guilty of importing and possessing furanyl-fentanyl – a synthesized designer drug considered 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine – and criminal negligence causing bodily harm after a friend of his severely overdosed on the substance.
At the start of his trial, Oake had pleaded guilty to a separate charge of trafficking furanyl-fentanyl.
Legal Aid will provide a new lawyer to represent him.
It will be his third defence counsel. He parted ways with his first lawyer, Charles Davison, before his trial was to start in January 2019. Oake was arrested and charged in November 2016.
A pre-sentence report is being prepared and Oake’s next court date is May 12. He could face more than 10 years in prison, though has built up more than four years of pre-trial custody credit.
Generally, each day spent behind bars before sentencing equals one and a half days when determining how much time remains after a sentence is imposed.