Pursuant to section 11(15) of the Justices of the Peace Act, R.S.O. 1990, C. J.4, the Justices of the Peace Review Council is holding a formal hearing into a complaint about the conduct of Justice of the Peace Paul Welsh of the Ontario Court of Justice.
On December 4, 2017, the hearing commenced. Presenting Counsel, Ms. Marie Henein, and Counsel for His Worship, Mr. Eugene Bhattacharya, filed a Joint Book of Documents that included an Agreed Statement of Facts and transcripts of court proceedings. His Worship Welsh gave evidence. Counsel made submissions on whether the actions of His Worship summarized below constituted judicial misconduct:
On October 16, 2013, while presiding in criminal court, His Worship showed a wilful disregard for the law and for the rights of the accused by unilaterally changing the return date on a court matter without taking steps to notify the accused, counsel of record, or the Crown of the new return date. His Worship’s actions resulted in the issuance and execution of a bench warrant and deprived the accused of his liberty.
The Hearing Panel reserved on its decision until December 5, 2017. The Panel gave oral reasons in support of its decision that His Worship engaged in judicial misconduct, with written reasons to follow.
Through his counsel, His Worship filed two Book of Documents that included 44 letters, including letter from three judges of the Ontario Court of Justice, one judge of the Superior Court of Justice and one justice of the peace attesting to his character and contribution to the justice system.
Counsel for His Worship and Presenting Counsel made submissions on disposition. Mr. Bhattacharya submitted that a combination of dispositions would be appropriate including an apology, training on independence and integrity and a suspension with pay for a period between 14 and 30 days. Presenting Counsel submitted that the Panel may find that a range of dispositions could include an apology, education on how to manage a busy courtroom and a suspension without pay.
His Worship requested that the Panel make a recommendation to the Attorney General that he should be compensated in the amount of $39,338.36 for his legal costs.
The Hearing Panel reserved on its decision and adjourned the matter until February 15, 2018. The Panel decided that in order to restore public confidence in this justice of the peace and in the administration of justice generally, the appropriate disposition in this matter is:
- A formal reprimand of Justice of the Peace Welsh. This formal censure is intended as a clear indication of this Panel’s disapproval of his conduct.
- A requirement that Justice of the Peace Welsh apologize in writing to Mr. Ian Silverthorne; the letter is to be delivered through the Registrar of the Review Council.
- Additional judicial education or training as deemed appropriate by the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice or her designate in order to restore the public’s confidence in Justice of the Peace Welsh and in the judiciary. He is to receive education or undertake training that reinforces his awareness of appropriate judicial boundaries and relationships, and formal management of courtroom processes and communication with justice partners, as a condition of continuing to sit as a justice of the peace.
- A suspension without pay, but with benefits, for a period of ten (10) juridical days. This is necessary as a reflection of the harm done to a member of the public as well as the public’s confidence in the judiciary and in the administration of justice.
The Panel decided to recommend less than the total amount billed in light of the criteria set out by the Divisional Court in Massiah v. Justices of the Peace Review Council, 2016 ONSC 6191, including the previous finding in 2009 of judicial misconduct in relation to His Worship and the nature of his conduct in this instance that anyone would have known was inappropriate and which resulted in a public cost and serious personal consequences to Mr. Silverthorne.
The Panel is recommending compensation in the amount of $20,000.00.
The Reasons for Decision are posted on the webpage Public Hearings Decision 2018.
Pursuant to section 11.1(1) of the Act, the Honourable Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve, Chair of the Council, has established a Hearing Panel of members of the Council consisting of a judge who shall chair the panel, a justice of the peace, and a community member.
The decision to order a hearing was taken following the investigation of the complaints in accordance with the Review Council’s complaints process. A three-person complaints committee, consisting of a judge, a justice of the peace, and a community or lawyer member, investigated the complaints and ordered that a formal hearing be held.
Pursuant to section 11.1 of the Act, the Hearing Panel may dismiss the complaint, with or without a finding that it is unfounded, or if it upholds the complaint, it may decide upon any of the following sanctions singly or in combination:
- warn the justice of the peace;
- reprimand the justice of the peace;
- order the justice of the peace to apologize to the complainant or to any other person;
- order the justice of the peace to take specified measures such as receiving education or treatment, as a condition of continuing to sit as a justice of the peace;
- suspend the justice of the peace with pay, for any period; or,
- suspend the justice of the peace without pay, but with benefits, for a period up to thirty days.
The Council may also make a recommendation to the Attorney General that the justice of the peace be removed from office. This sanction cannot be combined with any other sanction. Under section 11.2(1) of the Act, a justice of the peace may be removed from office only by order of the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
Presenting Counsel is Ms. Marie Henein, Henein Hutchison LLP, Telephone: 416-368-5000.
For general information, contact: Ms. Marilyn E. King, Registrar, telephone 416-327-5672.