Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision on Application for Enrolment


Applicant 15

Hearing (application for enrolment): June 5, 2019

Panel: Christopher A McPherson, QC (Chair), Nan Bennett and Kimberly Henders Miller

Decision issued: March 5, 2020 (2020 LSBC 15)

Counsel: Michael Shirreff for the Law Society; Craig Jones, QC for the applicant

BACKGROUND

The applicant has a significant criminal history and numerous driving offences and occurrences. He first experienced behavioural difficulties during secondary school. He began drinking alcohol by the age of 13, and at the age of 14, he was found by the police in a park with a BB gun and later in an unoccupied house with friends drinking and smoking marijuana.

Over the course of several years, he committed a series of driving offences, including numerous moving offences, and received 24-hour prohibitions and prohibitions imposed both by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles and the courts.

In 2009, he was involved in an altercation with a male friend and his girlfriend. His girlfriend intervened in a fight between the two men. He struck his girlfriend and she fell to the ground. He was charged with assault and released with numerous conditions, including no contact with her.

He repeatedly contacted his ex-girlfriend, who was still a youth. He went to her place of work at least twice. He gained access to her email and social media accounts and changed her passwords. He threatened to damage her home. He uttered a threat to her to cause death or bodily harm to a young man whom he believed she was dating. He later apologized to her.

As a result of his conduct, he was charged with uttering threats to cause damage to property, criminal harassment, attempting to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice (three different counts representing various means of obstruction, namely threats, concealing the passwords and repeatedly communicating with his ex-girlfriend), and uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm to the young man he believed she was seeing. He was arrested and remained in custody.

He entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to 30 days and two years’ probation for the assault of his girlfriend; 30 days and two years’ probation for the breach of the no contact order with his girlfriend; 49 days and two years’ probation for criminal harassment; and 49 days and two years’ probation for uttering threats. In addition, he was ordered to have no contact with his ex-girlfriend and the young man he believed she was seeing, not consume or possess any alcohol or non-prescribed drugs, participate in counselling as directed, and take steps to maintain himself so his condition of adjustment disorder, depression and obsessional behaviour will not cause him to act dangerously.

He took anger management and substance abuse counselling while incarcerated, and the probation officer did not direct any further counselling after his release from jail. He did not abide by his probation order. He repeatedly contacted his ex-girlfriend. He was charged with contacting her and for possessing and consuming drugs. He pleaded guilty to possessing and consuming drugs, and the prosecution stayed the charge of contacting his ex-girlfriend. The probation order was later amended to remove the condition not to contact her. His last conviction was in 2011 for driving while prohibited. He entered a guilty plea and received a one-year driving prohibition and a fine of $800.

Despite this behaviour, he did well academically and entered the University of British Columbia in fall 2009. He withdrew from UBC in 2010 due to his incarceration beginning in January 2010. He returned to UBC in autumn 2010. He was admitted to law school in 2017 and is expected to graduate in May 2020.

He received an offer for summer articles in 2019 from a firm in Vancouver. He took two weeks training at the firm, but was unable to continue with summer articles due to this hearing. He has received an offer for articles at a different Vancouver firm and is due to begin in May 2020.

The applicant said he came to the realization that he had to change his behaviour, beginning with his time on remand and his jail sentence. He described how scary it was for him to be at the pre-trial centre with older inmates, many of whom were charged with serious offences. One inmate threatened him. He was transferred to a different correctional centre after he was sentenced and took anger management and substance abuse counselling, which he found somewhat helpful. He gradually cut himself off from peers who were still involved with criminal behaviour.

He accepts that his behaviour caused hardship to his family and he is remorseful for it. He described the pressure he previously experienced from his peers, some of whom are now facing very serious charges. He has tried to help some of them and his relatives who are still struggling. He testified that he is not proud of who he was, but is proud of who he is today. He said the process of rehabilitation for him is ongoing.

The panel found insight into how the applicant has changed over the years in letters from people who knew the applicant during his period of behavioural and legal difficulties. The panel found these letters demonstrate he is a person who has rehabilitated himself and addressed many of the issues regarding his character as a young man.

The panel also reviewed transcripts that showed academic difficulties during his undergraduate studies, which coincided with the period of his criminal behaviour. The transcripts show much improvement from 2011 to 2015. His law school marks were above average and showed he was applying himself to his studies.

The panel found that the applicant was forthright and complete in his answers.   The panel heard from a long-term employer of the applicant and found her description of his character and conduct while under her supervision to be particularly helpful.  The panel accepted evidence from his sisters that his behaviour and character have changed since his last conviction nearly 10 years ago. He is far less angry, more mature, more empathetic and more caring about others. The panel found their evidence on how they now trust him with young relatives and how he has reached out to other troubled relatives to be persuasive.

DECISION

The panel determined that the applicant is of good character and repute and fit to become a barrister and a solicitor of the Supreme Court. He can be enrolled as an articled student in BC.

2020 LSBC 15 Decision on Application for Enrolment