Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of the Decision on Application for Call and Admission

Vanessa Lauren de Jong

Hearing (application for enrolment): November 9, 2017

Panel: John Waddell, QC, Chair, Paula Cayley and Brook Greenberg

Decision issued: December 12, 2017 (2017 LSBC 44)

Counsel: Michael D. Shirreff for the Law Society; Henry Wood, QC for Vanessa de Jong

BACKGROUND

In February 2017, Vanessa de Jong applied to be enrolled in the Law Society Admission Program. Because that application included her history of criminal conduct, criminal charges and a conviction, the Credentials Committee ordered a hearing.

De Jong’ s criminal conduct began in 1999 when she was approximately 15 years old and continued until 2007. She began socializing with students at her high school who were members of a gang and were involved in selling illegal drugs. As a result, she began to use drugs, including crystal meth, and to sell drugs, primarily marijuana. After she left home in 2000, she quit using crystal meth but continued to use marijuana and to sell drugs.

In 2002, the apartment de Jong was living in with her then boyfriend was raided by police and she was charged with possession of cocaine and possession of the proceeds of crime. In June 2006, she was pulled over while driving and was charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, possession of marijuana and the possession of the proceeds of crime. In August 2006, the hotel room she was living in was raided by the police, and she was charged with possessing the proceeds of crime, possessing a weapon and breaching a recognizance. In October 2006, the police raided the townhouse she was living in and she was charged with 20 criminal counts, including breach of a recognizance, possession of a firearm, possession of stolen property and possession for the purpose of trafficking cocaine. She pleaded guilty in May 2010 to possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and was sentenced to 20 months community imprisonment.

While in custody, de Jong realized she contributed through her activities selling drugs to the adverse circumstances of some of those with whom she was incarcerated. She testified that her experience in custody made a significant impression upon her and led to her commit to addressing justice issues such as the over-incarceration of Indigenous people in Canadian prisons.

She began attending law school at the University of Victoria in 2013. She completed her law degree at the University of British Columbia from 2015 to 2017, where she excelled academically. She sought out articles from a criminal law firm because she wished to engage in legal aid criminal law work. She has been volunteering with the firm as well as doing some paid clerical work. She has received an offer of articles from the firm if she is admitted to the Law Society’ s Admission Program.

DECISION

The panel considered de Jong’ s extensive criminal past but noted it has been approximately ten years since she engaged in such conduct. It also considered her explanation of the events that convinced her to change the direction of her life, her forthrightness and honesty about her past conduct, her demonstrated dedication to her study of law, her volunteer work and the confidence and support of those whom she has worked with. The panel accepted she has rehabilitated herself.

The panel was satisfied that de Jong was of good character and repute and that she was fit to be admitted into the Law Society Admission Program, and subsequently to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor if and when she has completed the program.

2017 LSBC 44 Decision on Application for Call and Admission