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The judge in the case said given Travis King’s ‘tragic and difficult’ circumstances, it’s not surprising he ended up in criminal court. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Given Travis King’s "tragic and difficult" circumstances, it’s not surprising he ended up in criminal court, a Yellowknife judge said as she handed down a 30-month sentence for cocaine possession. Alcohol far more destructive than cocaine, says lawyer at trafficking sentencing hearing

Justice Karan Shaner made the comment Monday while sentencing the 21-year-old for possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking. King was found with 112 grams of the drug after being searched by police in Hay River two years ago.

Shaner sentenced King to 30 months in jail and two years probation. With credit for the time he’s already served, he has just under two years remaining on his jail sentence.

The jail time was six months less than the standard sentence for cocaine trafficking in the Northwest Territories. Shaner said King’s childhood and youth made him less blameworthy for his crimes.

A report prepared by a probation officer for the sentencing said King had no relationship with his father and was neglected by his mother, who was a heavy drinker.

He was apprehended twice by social services as a child, bounced between relatives’ houses before ending up homeless on the streets of Yellowknife at the age of 14.

"It would not take a great leap of logic to see that Travis King would end up in the justice system," Shaner said.

The sentence was closer to the three years the prosecutor had called for than the 18 months jail time urged by King’s lawyer, Peter Harte.

Shaner largely rejected Harte’s argument that alcohol has a far more destructive effect on individuals and communities than any other drug, such as cocaine. The courts routinely vilify cocaine trafficking when sentencing those accused of trafficking, noting the havoc it wreaks on individual users, families and the community.

Shaner said it’s not up to judges to decide what is and isn’t legal.

"This is a trial court and a sentencing court, it can’t make or change policies or legislation," said Shaner, adding it’s the court’s job to apply the law as enacted by Parliament.

King’s brother, Denecho King, is awaiting the verdict in his trial for murder and attempted murder in the death of one man and serious injury of another as a result of an attack in a Yellowknife apartment in 2014.

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