Professional regulation rarely results in jail. However, in Law Society of Alberta v Beaver, 2021 ABQB 134 (CanLII), https://canlii.ca/t/jd93p a former practitioner ended up being sentenced to jail for one year for contempt of court. Mr. Beaver’s registration was suspended and then revoked for misusing trust funds. When he continued practising a court issued an injunction requiring him to stop.
Mr. Beaver continued to practise for many months. However, he concealed this by using a new lawyer to “front” his actions. When the regulator began investigating his continued practise, he concealed his actions by destroying documents and creating false documents. He also encouraged his “fronting” lawyer to provide false information.
The Court identified a number of aggravating factors including the following:
The Jura/Beaver arrangement was not “a one off”, but went on for six months and involved at least seven matters. However, the true and full scale of Mr. Beaver’s misconduct cannot be determined because Mr. Beaver directed that Ms. Jura destroy the incriminating evidence that could be used against him. That direction is a highly aggravating factor, since it means that the LSA and the Court cannot evaluate the full extent of Mr. Beaver’s illegal conduct….
A further aggravating factor is that Mr. Beaver’s illegal actions effectively terminated another lawyer’s career.
The Court also disagreed with most of the mitigating factors suggested by Mr. Beaver. It disagreed that there was an honest mistake about his legal obligations. The Court could not agree that Mr. Beaver was generally of good character. It also found that the damage to Mr. Beaver’s employment prospects and reputation were the direct product of his own behaviour.
Incarceration for one-year was ordered. Mr. Beaver was given only three days to organize his affairs. Contemporaneously, a six month period of incarceration was ordered following a similar analysis in another case: College of Physicians and Surgeons v Ezzati, 2021 BCSC 205 (CanLII), https://canlii.ca/t/jd2sd.