A Kelowna lawyer has been fined $12,000 by the Law Society of British Columbia after being convicted of threatening his former spouse in 2017.
William Thomas Clarke was convicted on Jan. 28, 2019 of uttering threats and threatening his former spouse in December 2017. He was sentenced to a 12-month conditional discharge. He has since filed to appeal the criminal conviction, but his appeal was dismissed. He followed his probation conditions for the 12-month period before the conviction was discharged from his record.
In a recently published decision, the Law Society noted the circumstances surrounding Clarke’s conviction, which it says was unbecoming of the legal profession. Clarke called his ex-spouse, referred to as LC, to discuss arrangements regarding their child on Dec. 16, 2017. The conversation was polite and friendly until LC asked about the condominium Clarke owned in Ontario, which she was entitled to during their divorce two years prior.
The Law Society noted that Clarke called LC greedy for wanting more money than she deserved, given that he had to pay for repairs plus lawyer fees. The society also noted that the Ontario lawyer he hired let him down and was called a “f’ing jerk,” which was unusual language for him to use. Clarke then went on to talk about a former criminal client who could solve problems by menacing, intimidating, hurting people or just making them disappear. He also said something about how people who were distantly involved could end up with bullets in them, and that LC should beware or be warned. Clarke also mentioned not caring if he spent the rest of his life in an eight-by-eight jail cell.
Shortly after the call ended, Clarke called LC’s friend, who was storing Clarke’s firearms, and told her he was coming over to pick up his guns. The timing of this call was frightening to LC, which sent her into a panic, said the Law Society.
Prior to this incident, Clarke made threatening Facebook comments sometime in 2016 or 2017. He also emailed LC in 2017, saying that he wanted her dead.
In his testimony, Clarke pleaded not guilty and claimed that he had not intended to intimidate LC or for her to take his words seriously. He instead claimed that he was engaging in jesting, joking or humorous rant. The judge dismissed those claims.
“Why on earth would he be telling her all of these awful things if not to scare the living daylights out of her?” the judge said during the trial.
Clarke self-reported his criminal charge to the Law Society in April 2018. He maintained that he did not mean to hurt LC and that she misunderstood him. In letters to the Law Society, Clarke said he had since apologized to LC and that they are speaking in friendly ways.
In its decision, the Law Society noted Clarke’s good reputation as a family lawyer in the Okanagan but noted that his behaviour was unbecoming of the profession and was a serious breach of the criminal law.
“Lawyers who practice family or criminal law, as has (Clarke), should know all too well the trauma that threats directed against a current or former intimate partner can cause,” wrote the Law Society.
In the end, the Society ordered Clarke to a $12,000 fine, which he agreed to. He was also ordered to pay $1,000 in legal costs. He was not suspended from practising law for any period of time.