Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision on Disciplinary Action


 

Christopher James Wilson

Saanichton, BC

Called to the bar: July 10, 1980

Written materials and submissions: December 5, 2019 and February 11 and 12, 2020

Panel: Craig A.B. Ferris, QC, chair, Ralston S. Alexander, QC and J. Paul Ruffell

Decision issued: April 30, 2020 (2020 LSBC 20)

Counsel: Michael D. Shirreff and Maya Ollek for the Law Society; Richard Margetts, QC for Christopher James Wilson

BACKGROUND

Christopher James Wilson admitted that he gave a person who is not a lawyer blank trust cheques; permitted staff to withdraw funds from his trust account by way of cheques that were not signed by a lawyer; failed to comply with Law Society Rules regarding client identification and verification; and either failed to ensure the security of his electronic-signature password or disclosed his password to staff and allowed them to affix his digital signature on electronic instruments.

A hearing panel determined that Wilson committed professional misconduct (facts and determination: 2019 LSBC 25).

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

Wilson and the Law Society provided written submissions in support of an agreed disciplinary action of a $15,000 fine. The panel, however, was of the view that the agreed action did not respond to the severity of the misconduct.

The panel considered Wilson’s professional conduct record, the numerous instances of misconduct and the nature and seriousness of the events. Further, the panel found that Wilson is an experienced lawyer and these are not “rookie” mistakes, but instead are the result of intentional neglect or, at least, studied indifference to compliance obligations.

The panel considered the primary obligation of the Law Society to regulate the profession in protection of the public interest. No aspect of that public interest ranks higher than the administration of trust funds and, in that regard, the panel determined a significant disciplinary action must follow these many instances of trust account mismanagement.

The panel observed that the fine penalty has been less impactful as a deterrent as a result of the impact of inflation on the value of money and suggested that the amount of fines ought to increase over time to account for the time value of money.

The panel ordered that Wilson pay:

  1. a fine of $25,000; and
  2. costs of $4,509.71.

 

2020 LSBC 20 Decision on Disciplinary Action

2019 LSBC 25 Decision on Facts and Determination