Home Featured B.C. law student who sexually harassed victim via Snapchat allowed to continue articling, but with conditions: Tribunal

B.C. law student who sexually harassed victim via Snapchat allowed to continue articling, but with conditions: Tribunal

by HR Law Canada

A law student, once embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal at university, has been deemed fit to join the articling program of the Law Society of British Columbia, despite serious concerns about his past behavior.

The Credentials Committee of the Law Society referred the applicant’s enrollment to a tribunal hearing, scrutinizing whether his previous actions undermined his character and fitness to practice law. This decision followed an unsettling period during his undergraduate studies, where he was found to have sexually harassed a fellow student over several months through anonymous and explicit messages via Snapchat.

The tribunal concluded that the applicant met the good character requirement to become an articled student, albeit with conditions aimed at furthering his understanding of professional conduct.

According to the Legal Professional Act, “No person may be enrolled as an articled student, called and admitted or reinstated as a member unless the benchers are satisfied that the person is of good character and repute and fit to become a barrister and a solicitor of the Supreme Court.”

Applicant was resident assistant at his dorm

The allegations against the applicant date back to his time as a resident assistant at his university dorm in 2015 and 2016. The tribunal detailed how the applicant had escalated his online harassment from flirtatious messages to sending unsolicited sexual images and texts. Initially denying the allegations, he later admitted his misconduct after being confronted by university officials.

In his own words during the hearing, the applicant reflected on his actions, stating, “I have no excuse and will never make any attempt to justify what I did. What I did was wrong of me and I am deeply sorry for all the ways that my poor decisions have caused any harm or anxiety for you.”

“I wish that I had never ever done this and will commit to never doing anything like this ever again.”

Following university disciplinary proceedings, the applicant was subjected to several sanctions, including moving off campus and avoiding leadership roles. He has since attended counseling and engaged in a men’s support group, actions that contributed to the tribunal’s assessment of his rehabilitation.

‘An apology is not enough’

The Law Society’s panel set forth conditions for his articling enrollment, insisting he complete at least six hours of training on anti-bullying and harassment, including a component on trauma-informed practice.

It did not order that he attend counselling — because the applicant expressed his desire and plan to return to counselling soon.

The tribunal also pointed out that, when it comes to sexual misconduct, “an apology is not enough.”

“The perpetrator of any kind of sexual misconduct must acknowledge and make efforts to understand the harm caused,” it said. It expressed concern that, after questioning from both Law Society counsel and the Applicant’s counsel, he did not clearly articulate his understanding of the harm he caused.

“Upon urging from the Panel, the Applicant finally articulated some of the harms – that the Complainant felt unsafe and experienced anxiety following the harassment,” it said.

But it accepted that he understood the harms caused by his actions.

The decision has allowed the applicant to maintain his position at a downtown Vancouver law firm, which had been contingent on the outcome of this hearing.

In the interests of privacy and encouraging reporting of such misconduct, the tribunal granted a nondisclosure order to protect the identity of the complainant, recognizing “the sensitive and private nature of the sexual harassment.”

The Law Society and the panel will continue to monitor the situation, underscoring their commitment to upholding the integrity of the legal profession and the safety of its members and the public.

For more information, see Applicant 18 (Re), 2024 LSBC 12 (CanLII).

You may also like

About Us

HR Law Canada is dedicated to covering labour and employment news for lawyers, HR professionals and employers. Published by North Wall Media.