|For immediate release||July 6, 2009|
BC Supreme Court lifts publication ban, allowing Law Society of BC to protect public by naming convicted lawyer
Vancouver - A British Columbia Supreme Court justice has lifted a publication ban, allowing the Law Society to protect the public by publishing the name of a lawyer convicted of a serious criminal offence.
On Monday, Madam Justice Catherine A. Wedge ordered the ban lifted. The ban had limited the Law Society's ability to report to the public about a lawyer who had been convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor. The Court recognized that the Law Society was required to obey the ban.
Law Society President Gordon Turriff, QC said the court's decision now allows the Law Society to fulfill its responsibility of protecting the public interest by publishing the lawyer's name. Before the ban was lifted, the lawyer could only be identified as "GP."
"This is a very important judgment," he said. "Our mandate is to protect the public interest in the administration of justice. As the regulator of lawyers and of the practice of law in BC, it is the responsibility of the Society to report lawyers' conduct that results in the society issuing a citation. We are now able to so."
The lawyer, whose name is Harold Garrett Power, was convicted May 12, 2009, but the Law Society could not publish his name because of the publication ban, originally imposed in 2005 after he was charged criminally.
When the Law Society learned from Crown Counsel that Power had been charged with a criminal offence, the society's Discipline Committee reviewed the conditions of Power's release from custody, by which he gave an undertaking to the Court not to be alone with anyone under 18 years unless he was providing legal advice within a courthouse or a corrections facility. The Committee was satisfied that that restriction was a sufficient public interest protection.
In the circumstances, and having regard to the principle of the presumption of innocence, the Discipline Committee decided to await the outcome of the criminal case before considering what discipline steps, if any, should be taken against Power. Accordingly, the Committee monitored the criminal proceedings until their recent conclusion.
During his criminal trial this spring, Power admitted in testimony that he had lied on the application he had made to the Law Society for the right to practice law in B. C. The Law Society promptly issued a citation against him in relation to that admitted lie. However, because the Court had ordered the publication ban, which the Law Society could not ignore, Power's name was not revealed. Normally, the Law Society publishes the names of lawyers on its websites after citations have been served.
When Power was convicted of the criminal offence on May 12, the Law Society cited him for his criminal conviction, but again could not disclose his name because of the ban. Within a matter of days after the conviction, and as a result of discussions with Law Society lawyers, Power resigned his membership in the Society. He has not had the right to practise law in B.C. since the date of his resignation.
Despite his resignation, the Law Society is proceeding with the two citations against Power.
The Law Society of BC was incorporated in 1884 and is the governing body of the legal profession in BC. Under the provisions of the Legal Profession Act, the Law Society is responsible for the licensing, professional conduct and discipline of the more than 11,000 lawyers in BC.
For further information please contact:
Cara McGregor, Communications Officer