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Crown seeking house arrest for Lindsay officer who stole drug evidence

Burke pleaded guilty in May to stealing drugs from police evidence locker after becoming addicted to opioids.

AUGUST 9, 2019

Sentencing submissions wrapped up Friday in the case of a City of Kawartha Lakes police officer, who admitted he stole drugs from the police evidence locker in 2017, but it will still be at least several weeks before a sentence is handed down.

Det.-Const. Jeff Burke, a 13-year veteran officer, pleaded guilty on May 27 to one count of breach of trust and admitted he stole drugs from the evidence room after becoming addicted to opioids.

The Crown is seeking a 15- to 18-month conditional jail sentence and probation of one to two years. The most serious factor in asking for the sentence, court heard, is that Burke's actions compromised eight drug investigations, forcing the Crown to stay the proceedings in those cases.

Defence lawyer Harry Black is requesting a conditional discharge or suspended sentence.

Burke was suspended after he was charged in April 2018 and was facing a total of nine charges, including two counts of theft under $5,000, two counts of possession of stolen property under $5,000, two counts of fraud under $5,000 and three counts of breach of trust.

The charges related to allegations that drug evidence had been removed from the evidence locker at the police station in December 2017. An investigation followed and further charges were later laid after pharmacies were allegedly defrauded of prescription medication.

Black asked Justice Ferhan Javed to take into account the circumstances of the case, Burke's service to the community and struggle with mental health issues — specifically relating to a machete attack that left Burke with serious facial injuries and his presence at the shooting of Peterborough Police Const. Keith Calderwood during a Lindsay drug raid, both in 2011 — and the impact on the officer and his family.

"But for those two incidents, he wouldn't be sitting here," said Black, adding the entire process has been a "soul-shattering experience."

Black also pointed out that, under the Police Services Act, a hearing will still take place that will determine Burke's future as an officer.

Burke was also given an opportunity to speak, during which he apologized to the court, his co-workers and family, and the people of Lindsay.

"PTSD; it's a killer ... It just does things in your noggin and turns things upside down," said Burke, adding his decision to self-medicate in order to continue to do his job was "not a smart decision."

The case returns to Ontario Court of Justice in Lindsay on Aug. 22 to set a date for sentencing.

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