How long should a person be jailed for contempt of court for a second breach of a restraining order for illegal practice? British Columbia’s highest court dealt with that issue in College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia v. Ezzati, 2021 BCCA 422 (CanLII), https://canlii.ca/t/jkcpp. The lower court had imposed a six-month jail sentence and fine for “repeatedly violated an interim injunction by: holding herself out as being qualified to practise medicine; purporting to examine and advise others as to their suitability for a botulinum toxin or dermal filler injection for cosmetic purposes; and injecting clients with botulinum toxin and dermal filler”. The first contempt incidents resulted in a fine of $5,000.
The Court of Appeal found that the lower court had properly declined to consider rehabilitation since no evidence had been provided in evidence. The Court also held that there had been no material error in considering the expert evidence of risk of harm. The Court also declined to consider fresh evidence of insight or of undue impact of incarceration on the individual as either being irrelevant or unconvincing. However, the Court did reduce the period of incarceration to three months, saying:
… a six-month period of incarceration in these circumstances is a disproportionate (by which I mean a clearly excessive) response to the appellant’s conduct. It does not reflect restraint in the use of incarceration for civil contempt. In addition, the sanction does not reflect a measured application of the “step-up” principle. While there is nothing to be said for the appellant’s conduct and few mitigating factors, the sentence for the second contempt is a very significant jump from the $5,000 fine imposed for the first breach. In addition, I am of the view that the sanction represents a marked and substantial departure from sanctions imposed in similar contexts.
While outcomes will depend upon the particular circumstances, this appellate court decision provides guidance.