An Ontario tribunal has generated controversy by ruling that a man who engaged in sexual abuse of minor children in 2009 is now of “good character” and eligible to practice law. Despite his history of sexual abuse and initial lack of transparency about the incidents, the Law Society Tribunal has granted him the opportunity to become a licensed lawyer, raising questions about the decision’s implications.
The Applicant’s History:
The individual, identified in the ruling as “A.A.” due to a publication ban, was involved in three separate incidents of sexual abuse of minor children in 2009. The acts included inappropriate touching and being touched by the children while clothed. Although not criminally charged, the behavior was confirmed and confronted by the father of one of the children.
Past Lack of Transparency:
Upon his return to Canada, A.A. was not forthcoming about the incidents with medical officials, the local child protection agency, or the Law Society of Ontario during his previous application for licensure in 2012. He withdrew that application. The recent application revealed the incidents, which the Law Society became aware of through an anonymous letter.
Tribunal Ruling and Controversy:
The tribunal’s ruling has stirred controversy due to its assertion that A.A. is now of “good character” and eligible to practice law. While the nature and severity of his actions were acknowledged, the tribunal considered his remorse, rehabilitative efforts, lack of further incidents since 2009, and the passage of time. The decision stipulates that A.A. may not meet unsupervised with minor children.
The tribunal noted that A.A. has undergone therapy and therapeutic interventions over the years. He acknowledged his past actions with regret and expressed remorse. Witnesses, including a psychologist, a member of his therapy group, and a clinical assistant to a retired psychologist who treated him, supported his commitment to therapy and rehabilitation.
Public Perception and Confidence:
The tribunal weighed A.A.’s offer not to meet with minor children in unsupervised settings as a means to enhance public confidence in the regulation of lawyers and paralegals. The decision, while considering his remorse and rehabilitation, raises concerns about the public perception of allowing someone convicted of child sexual abuse to practice law.
The tribunal’s decision to grant A.A. a law license based on his current “good character” and rehabilitation efforts has ignited debate. It underscores complex questions about rehabilitation, public perception, and the responsibilities of regulatory bodies in granting licenses, especially in cases involving serious offenses like child sexual abuse.