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Ontario Lawyer Can Continue Practicing Law Despite Sexually Abusing Children

Natasha Biase

Ontario’s Law Society Tribunal has ruled that a child sex offender can practice law in Ontario so long as he is supervised in the presence of children.

According to the Toronto Star, the tribunal determined that once the man completes some administrative requirements, including passing the bar exam, he’s entitled to become a lawyer regardless of his admitted sexual attraction to children.

In 2009, the man, who is being referred to as AA as the court has protected his identity, was accused of inappropriately touching children on three occasions. Reportedly, he was confronted by the father of one of the children, and afterwards, admitted what happened to a child protection agency and his former wife. AA was never criminally charged.

The Toronto Star notes that at the time of the incident, AA was living in another country studying to become a religious leader, but abandoned his studies and returned to Canada with his family to pursue a career in law. 

A few years later, in 2012, AA applied for a license to practice law but failed to include the sexual abuse allegations with the Law Society. In 2017, he forcibly abandoned the application after the Law Society learned about his disturbing past through an anonymous tip.

Tribunal panel chair Jay Sengupta noted in the decision that AA confessed to lying on his application:

“He rationalized and tried to justify his actions, describing himself as scrambling to avoid the shame as he imagined that he could not survive in a world where he was outed as a child sex offender,” Sengupta wrote.

Because AA has admitted to his past crimes and is getting treatment, the tribunal ruled that he is “of good character and should be licensed.” Lawyers in Ontario are legally required to be of “good character” to practice law.

In addition, the panel concluded that his openness about his past and willingness to pursue treatment for his “sexual dysfunction” coupled with a psychiatrist’s diagnoses that he suffers from “pedophilic disorder in remission” and no longer “displays” symptoms of being a pedophile, make him suitable to practice law.

“We are persuaded that the applicant has a genuine commitment to continuing therapy and vigilance to ensure that he does not reoffend against minors,” added Sengupta, “We also accept that his actions show that he has recognized the harm that deception, both of himself and those around him, has caused and would cause.”

The decision also notes that AA intends to serve marginalized communities and hopes to “seek redemption by being of use to others.”

This is not the first case where a registered sex offender was given the green light to practice law in North America. In 2022, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that Zachary Leroy Stevens could also become a lawyer.

City News reports that Stevens was “convicted of voyeurism after sending child pornography to an undercover detective at age 19.” In a 4-5 ruling, the court concluded that since the offense, Stevens had demonstrated “the good moral character necessary to be allowed to practice law.”

In 2019, Stevens applied to become a lawyer in Washington state after his application was rejected in Arizona. Initially, the Washington State Bar Association committee denied his petition, so he appealed the decision to the Supreme Court and won. 

Similarly, Guy Hamilton-Smith, a registered child sex offender, won a lawsuit several years ago clearing him to practice law. Smith, who took to Reddit to celebrate his win, said his experiences with the criminal justice system inspired him to apply to law school. 

After disclosing his disturbing criminal history, he was accepted to the University of Kentucky but was denied the ability to complete the bar exam by the Kentucky Supreme Court. Although he cannot represent clients, Smith explains in his Reddit post that Kentucky overturned a group of statutes barring registered sex offenders from social media use.

Daily Mail also points out that after graduating in 2011, Hamilton-Smith held a non-lawyer position for Baldani, Rowland and Richardson in Lexington, Kentucky, which filed letters supporting him being able to take the bar exam to practice law.

According to Hamilton-Smith’s website, he was admitted to the Washington State Bar this year and is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

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Natasha Biase

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