Hawkesbury lawyer loses license for conspiracy to import cocaine

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Ray Lachapelle’s cocaine addiction was an open secret among colleagues, clients and staff. It was an addiction so severe he lost his liberty and now his license to practice law.

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In a Feb. 24 ruling, the Law Society of Ontario’s disciplinary tribunal revoked Lachapelle’s license, effective immediately, for conduct unbecoming — notably his role in a 2017 conspiracy to import more than a tonne of cocaine from Colombia to Canada.

The Hawkesbury-based lawyer was found guilty in a Halifax court in 2018 and sentenced to seven years in prison.

The Mounties dubbed the project “Operation Halfpenny” and Lapachelle and others were arrested after an 18-month international drug-trafficking investigation that began in Cape Breton but had tentacles across the country.

The scheme shut down by the RCMP also ended in a raid that yielded more than 25 firearms — including three prohibited weapons — a significant quantity of ammunition, a stolen car, a large amount of hash, cash and tactical equipment.

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Lachapelle was arrested in 2017 along with accomplices in Nova Scotia. Days later, while on bail, he was back at his Hawkesbury law office serving clients.

The Law Society later investigated the cocaine case and has now revoked his license.

It’s not the first time the lawyer has come under scrutiny by the law society.

Lachapelle was found guilty of misconduct back in 1999 after he misappropriated $71,000 from the estate of his late great-aunt to pay for his cocaine addiction.

After hearing about his drug addiction, the law society panel decided against disbarring him and instead gave Lachapelle a two-month suspension.

In that 1999 decision, the law society panel said Lachapelle’s drug addiction wasn’t a secret – “it appears that most of his clients, much of the greater Hawkesbury community, all

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B.C. lawyer that accepted $45,000 in $20 bills gets suspended | iNFOnews


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February 26, 2023 – 6:00 AM







A B.C. lawyer who accepted $45,000 in $20 bills has been suspended for 10 weeks due to a multitude of financial irregularities.


According to a Feb. 15 Law Society of B.C. decision, Abbotsford-based lawyer Randle W. Howarth improperly used his firm’s trust account to receive $776,305 although he provided no legal services.


On one occasion he accepted $45,540 in $20 bills and made no inquiries as to what “legitimate economic activities” would generate so much cash in such small denominations.


Howarth did admit he’d heard the investor was a “drug dealer” but didn’t think the allegation was credible.


The decision says the lawyer also made “misleading or inaccurate” statements to the Law Society.


He told the Law Society he hadn’t received more than $7,500 in cash into his trust account when he’d actually received $96,907.


Howarth signed a consent agreement admitting to professional misconduct.


The decision says Howarth has been a lawyer since 1978 and practices in motor vehicle cases, civil litigation and creditors’ remedies.


READ MORE: B.C. lawyer accused of laundering $23.5M


The professional misconduct has to do with a sawmill mill investment Howarth was involved in 2014.


More than a dozen investors advanced $25,000 to Howarth for the sawmill venture and he deposited the cash into his trust account.


“Between September 2014 and August 2017, Howarth used his firm’s trust account to receive and disburse a total of $776,305.97… in circumstances where no substantial legal services were provided,” the decision reads.


“The lawyer failed to maintain or produce receipts for the cash accepted and deposited to trust. Furthermore, the

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Law Society: Proposed legal aid fee increase marks progress but more action needed

Law Society: Proposed legal aid fee increase marks progress but more action needed

A proposed rise in legal aid fees is a step in the right direction, but further action is urgently needed to resolve the long-term crisis in the sector, the Law Society of Scotland has said.

Following discussions with the Law Society, the Scottish government has proposed an £11 million increase in spend across both criminal and civil legal aid fees for solicitors.

The society has said while the proposals do not resolve all of the long-term, deep-rooted problems in legal aid, it is a step towards addressing some of its concerns, including the need to reverse the acute reduction in the number of solicitors currently able to offer civil, children’s and criminal legal aid.

In addition to increasing legal aid fees, the Law Society has stated that a robust fee review system will be essential to ensure the long-term sustainability of the legal aid sector and ensuring access to justice.

Murray Etherington, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “While this brings much needed progress, after more than two decades of chronic underfunding, the government’s proposed increase does not fully resolve the deep-rooted issues in the legal aid sector.

“Access to legal services is a key part of living in a fair and just society. However across Scotland, the network of legal aid support is diminishing, while the demand for help is increasing.

“In many areas, including some of the poorest parts of the country, people are unable to access a legal aid solicitor. That means that some people cannot access the legal advice or representation they need and can be severely disadvantaged as a result, for example if they have been unfairly dismissed from work or are going through a complex family matter.

“We are keen to see the proposed increase implemented as quickly as possible. We

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Civil legal aid review in the pipeline, agency reveals | News

The government has quietly revealed that it will embark on a major review of civil legal aid – but the chief executive of a practitioner group warns it could be too little, too late to prevent the sector shrinking further.

The Legal Aid Agency announced yesterday that it was extending 2018 standard civil contracts until 31 August 2024 ‘to allow us time to consider findings from the planned Ministry of Justice Civil Legal Aid Review’.

The ministry has repeatedly told the Gazette that the government has been conducting an internal review on civil legal aid sustainability. Yesterday’s announcement appears to be the first official confirmation of a major review.

A spokesperson for the MoJ told the Gazette today that more detail on the terms of reference and process for the review will be announced shortly.

As well as the findings of its internal sustainability review, the ministry will have a wealth of research to feed into the review, including the Law Society’s review on sustainability and the findings of the Legal Aid Practitioner Group’s legal aid census.

After conducting what is believed to be the biggest inquiry on legal aid, the Westminster Commission on Legal Aid published a 95-page report this time last year. The House of Commons justice select committee also conducted an inquiry on the future of legal aid.

According to government figures, there were 1,369 providers with civil contracts in February 2022. There were 2,134 providers in April 2012 – a year before the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) came into force. LASPO removed vast areas of law – such as housing family, immigration, employment and welfare benefits – out of scope for legal aid. The LAA has repeatedly had to plug gaps in advice provision, particularly in housing.

Law Society president I.

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Society edges closer to nuclear option on legal aid | News

Striking criminal barristers will vote this week on whether to accept the government’s revised legal aid offer – as the Law Society edges one step closer to issuing an unprecedented warning over the future of criminal defence work.

Justice secretary Brandon Lewis is hoping he has done enough to end the criminal bar’s action, which began in April, by offering what he announced last week was a package of reforms representing a further £54m investment in the criminal bar and solicitors.

Members of the Criminal Bar Association will be balloted on the new offer tomorrow. The ballot will close on Sunday and the results will be announced the following day.

However, the Law Society is unhappy about the deal, warning that it would advise members not to undertake criminal defence work if the government does not offer the minimum 15% fee uplift recommended for solicitors by the Bellamy review. Chancery Lane repeated the warning following an urgent meeting with justice minister Gareth Johnson MP on the day the new deal was announced.

Of the £54m being offered, £19m is earmarked for solicitors and the Ministry of Justice says further uplifts for solicitors will be announced later this year. However, the Society says the further investment is mainly a one-off and not increasing rates in the long-term, so solicitors are still well below the 15% increase barristers are receiving.

Chancery Lane said it presented its arguments ‘strongly’ to the minister.

Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said it was positive that, as a former minister criminal defence practitioner, Johnson understood the problems in the criminal justice system. ‘However, rather than anything substantial, all that is currently being offered to solicitors by the government is more promises of jam tomorrow. We will continue to push for a fair deal for solicitors for

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Scotland’s most deprived communities facing ‘chronic’ shortage of legal aid firms

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Scotland’s most deprived communities facing chronic shortage of legal aid firms

Thousands of people in Scotland’s most deprived communities are facing a chronic shortage of civil legal aid firms, lawyers have warned.

The Law Society of Scotland said the 100,000 people living in the most deprived communities had access to just 29 civil legal aid firms.

Legal aid for civil court actions is only offered to people with a disposable income of less than £293 per month.

The Law Society, which represents the legal profession, said many people in these communities will be forced to represent themselves in divorce proceedings, child custody hearings and immigration hearings.

It has long argued that the Scottish Government’s funding for legal aid is insufficient, and law society president Murray Etherington said the system was in “crisis” in July.

The Law Society has teamed up with author and commentator, Darren McGarvey, to campaign for improvements in legal aid provision in deprived communities.

Darren McGarvey

Mr McGarvey, author of Poverty Safari, said: “Just imagine standing in a courtroom on your own to argue your case, up against an experienced solicitor. Now imagine that the custody of your child is at stake.

“Or a life-changing payout after an industrial accident.

“The absurdity of that proposition, combined with inequalities within the justice, healthcare, and education systems, is exactly why I am supporting the Law Society of Scotland to highlight the real issues that real people in Scotland face. Something has to change.”

He continued: “Those who are already most disadvantaged are having their last line of defence pulled away from them.

“The Scottish Government has let inflation quietly chip away at legal aid fees over the last two decades – now we need to catch up.”

Ministers have

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SNP hits back at accusations poor have limited access to legal aid

The Law Society of Scotland has called for an increase in fees for legal aid

The Law Society of Scotland has called for an increase in fees for legal aid

More than 40,000 people living in the poorest areas of a Scottish city do not have direct access to a single firm offering legal aid, according to analysis.

Research by the Law Society of Scotland found there were no firms operating in 50 of Aberdeen’s “most deprived” data-zones.

In the worst affected areas, there were 29 firms for 100,000 people and nearly nine in 10 had no local access at all.

The Society says chronic shortages of firms offering legal aid is being compounded by the fact that fees agreed in 1999 had only increased by 10 per cent, compared to an inflation increase of 55%.

However, the Scottish Government said it was “up to legal firms or solicitors” to offer services or to take a case on legal aid within an area, and added: “we can’t compel them to do so”.

It said the decline in the number of legal aid firms reflects, in the main, long-term declines in both criminal and civil case-loads.

READ MORE: Ministers say Scots legal aid system is among the best in the world as lawyers say court justice is ‘on brink of collapse’

Support for civil court actions is only offered to people with a disposable income of less than £293 per month – above that amount, there is a cost to be paid, which can be up to full repayment of fees.

The most common civil court cases include divorce and child contact or custody, adoption and immigration and asylum cases but may also involve medical negligence or securing social welfare payments.

The Scottish Government recently proposed an £11 million increase in spend across both criminal and civil legal aid – but this has been described

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England: New Law Society president calls on solicitors to refuse poorly paid legal aid work

England: New Law Society president calls on solicitors to refuse poorly paid legal aid work

The Law Society of England and Wales’s new president has said criminal lawyers should refuse work for which they are not properly remunerated as they demand a 15 per cent increase in legal aid fees, in line with barristers.

Lubna Shuja’s appointment comes as solicitors have been offered a nine per cent rise, despite having spent 25 years without an increase in pay and the fact and independent review recommends a 15 per cent increase.

Ms Shuja said that contractual obligations prevent solicitors from following barristers and taking strike action.

“If we can see that there is an area of work that is just not sustainable and not viable, we’ve got a duty to tell our members that,” she said.

“That’s what we’re here for, the Law Society, we are here to represent, promote, support over 200,000 solicitors, and we have to do that for all of them. So, if we can see that a particular area is not sustainable we’ve got to tell our members that and they will vote with their feet, as they are doing.

“That’s their answer, they’re just saying: ‘I can’t afford to do this work any more: it’s not viable, it’s not sustainable. I can’t live on these kinds of rates. I’m leaving and I’m going to do something else.’ And that is a real issue because the long-term consequences of that is we’re not going to have a criminal justice system.”

She said the number of law firms in England and Wales that have a criminal legal aid contract has declined from 1,652 in 2012 to 964 today.

This has led to legal aid deserts in places including Barnstaple, in north Devon, and Skegness, in Lincolnshire.

Ms Shuja also said that the average age of a duty solicitor is approaching 50

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Warning Scots can’t access legal aid

Scottish Government urged to take action

Thousands of Scotland’s most deprived families are facing the prospect of representing themselves in court thanks to a chronic shortage of civil legal aid firms.

New analysis by the Law Society of Scotland shows that the 139 most deprived communities in Scotland, resident to around 100,000 people, share just 29 civil legal aid firms between them. There are no civil legal aid firms at all in 122 of the 139 areas.

Of the legal firms in these areas, nearly 90,000 (87064) people are left without any local access at all.

Legal aid is a critical service affecting a range of life-altering situations and is the only way Scotland’s poorest families can secure legal support.

Often, it is during some of life’s tougher moments that people will find themselves in need of legal aid support.

Legal aid for civil court actions is only offered to people with a disposable income of less than £293 per month – above that amount, there is a cost to be paid, which can be up to full repayment of the legal aid cost.

The most common civil court cases include dealing with divorce and child contact or custody; adoption; immigration and asylum cases; and deportation. They also routinely involve securing compensation for medical negligence, securing social welfare payments and other financial situations.

Murray Etherington, president of the Law Society of Scotland said: “Legal aid is a fundamental part of Scottish society. The lack of representation available to those who need it most continues to be an unresolved issue. We have to stop looking at it as just a problem for solicitors – it is a problem for everyone.

£The recently proposed Scottish Government increase in funding may provide a short-term sticking plaster, but it won’t address the deep wounds

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100,000 most disadvantaged Scots face representing themselves in court amid legal aid ‘crisis’

Thousands of the most deprived people in Scotland face having to represent themselves in court as a result of a chronic “crisis” in access to legal aid, lawyers have warned.

The Law Society of Scotland have said 100,000 people living in the country’s most deprived communities have access to just 29 civil legal aid firms.

Calls for the Scottish Government to act have been backed by author and poverty campaigner Darren McGarvey who has said those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are having their “last line of defence pulled away from them”.

The analysis from the Law Society, which represents the legal profession, shows that the 139 most deprived communities in Scotland, resident to around 100,000 people, share just 29 civil legal aid firms between them. There are no civil legal aid firms at all in 122 of the 139 areas.

Of the legal firms in these areas, nearly 90,000 (87064) people are left without any local access at all.

Legal aid for civil court actions is only offered to people with a disposable income of less than £293 per month.

Commentator, activist, and award-winning author Darren McGarvey has backed the calls of the Law Society of Scotland.The Law Society of Scotland

The Law Society has warned that people now face being forced to represent themselves in divorce proceedings, child custody hearings and immigration hearings.

The campaign has now been backed by Darren McGarvey, author of Poverty Safari.

He said: “Just imagine standing in a courtroom on your own to argue your case, up against an experienced solicitor. Now imagine that the custody of your child is at stake.

“Or a life-changing payout after an industrial accident.

“The absurdity of that proposition, combined with inequalities within the justice, healthcare, and education systems, is exactly

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