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West Kelowna drug trafficker's early parole request denied, again

Early parole denied again

A West Kelowna drug trafficker will remain behind bars after his request for early parole was denied for a second time.

In a decision from earlier this week, the Parole Board of Canada said Leslie McCulloch, who's asthmatic, is actually safer from COVID-19 inside Abbotsford's Matsqui Institution than he would be in the community, as there are no known active cases of the virus at the prison.

McCulloch, 41, pleaded guilty to possession for the purpose of trafficking and production of an analogue of fentanyl in 2017, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in July 2019.

But less than a year after he was incarcerated, McCulloch applied for early parole, due to the risk he says he faces as an asthmatic during the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, the Parole Board rejected his application, due to his asthma being "mild," and the fact that no cases of COVID-19 had been discovered inside the Matsqui Institution at that time.

Last month, the Parole Board of Canada's Appeal Division granted McCulloch a new review of his early parole application, due to the Parole Board wrongly taking into account the length of McCulloch's sentence.

But on Monday, the Parole Board once again ruled McCulloch's asthma does not make him an “exceptional case,” where further incarceration would lead to serious physical or mental damage or “excessive hardship that was not reasonably foreseeable at the time the offender was sentenced.”

“The Institutional Heath Care Department believes your medical condition is quite mild,” the Parole Board wrote in its recent decision. “Your Case management team (CMT) states that it would be beneficial for you to stay at the institution, which is a more controlled environment with more protective measures than the community at large.”

The Board also noted that McCulloch committed his trafficking and production offences while on parole for a prior cocaine trafficking conviction.

In May, shortly after McCulloch was first denied parole, a single inmate at the Matsqui Institution was diagnosed with COVID-19, but he has since recovered. Currently, the Correctional Service of Canada lists one pending COVID-19 test at the prison. A large outbreak occurred last spring at the nearby Mission Medium Institution, where 120 inmates contracted the virus, leading to one death.

“The doctor reported that there were no known cases of COVID-19 in the [Matsqui] institution, which makes it a safer place to be than the community,” the Parole Board stated.

While his early parole was denied, McCulloch is eligible for day parole in October, and for full parole in April 2022.

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