Toronto Star: Broken Trust: Two Faces of Justice

Posted to the Toronto Star website

Former lawyer Lawrence Burns runs a North Toronto restaurant. He is also a disbarred lawyer found to have taken close to half a million dollars from his clients. Burns, like many lawyers caught with his hand in a trust account, escaped criminal prosecution. A Toronto Star investigation found most Canadian law societies report members to police. The Law Society of Upper Canada does not.

They treat client trust accounts as their personal piggy banks, facilitate multi-million-dollar frauds and drain retirement savings of the elderly.

While most lawyers caught stealing from their clients are reprimanded, suspended or disbarred by the profession’s regulator, the vast majority avoid criminal charges, a Star investigation reveals.

The Star found that more than 230 lawyers sanctioned for criminal-like activity by the Law Society of Upper Canada in the last decade, stole, defrauded or diverted some $61 million held in trust funds for clients.

Fewer than one in five were charged criminally. Most avoided jail.

“I truly believe there are two laws — a set of rules and regulations for lawyers and a different set for everyone else,” said Richard Bikowski, who was fleeced out of $87,500 by now-disbarred Toronto lawyer Lawrence Burns.

Unlike the law societies in most other provinces, the Law Society of Upper Canada does not, as a rule, report suspected criminal acts by its members to police, no matter how much money lawyers steal.

For the full story, go to the Toronto Star website

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