Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Right Path

Admission as a paralegal has been granted by the Law Society of Upper Canada based on findings that the applicant has overcome a pattern of criminal activity committed as a youth

Mr. Charalambides is currently 40 years old. As a young man he experienced problems at home and school and as a result made a number of bad choices including engagement in criminal activity.

His first criminal conviction arose from a break and enter that took place in 1995 when Mr. Charalambides was 19 years old. He pled guilty on November 27, 1996 to the offence of using a credit card obtained by crime. He received a suspended sentence with probation for two years.

 On May 8, 1997 Mr. Charalambides was involved in another break and enter. Property, including a rifle and ammunition, was taken from a private residence. Mr. Charalambides stored the stolen items in a YMCA locker.

 On March 16, 1998 Mr. Charalambides pled guilty to possession of stolen property and breach of his probation. He was sentenced to seven days incarceration, 18 months’ probation and was prohibited from possessing firearms, ammunition, or explosive substances for five years.

That same day, in relation to the property in the YMCA locker, Mr. Charalambides also pled guilty to the offence of the careless storage of ammunition. For this he received a three-month conditional sentence and his prohibition order was increased to 10 years.

During the course of this hearing Mr. Charalambides acknowledged with great candour that during this time he had committed other break and enters for which he was never charged.

Following his court appearances in March 1998 Mr. Charalambides had no further convictions for more than eight years. He began to take steps to get his life back on track. This included attending Humber College to study computers and working several jobs.

 In October of 2006 he was employed as a grocery clerk. He earned extra money in the evening chauffeuring exotic dancers and their companions from place to place as required.

 On October 7, 2006 he arrived at 3:00 am at an after-hours club to pick up a dancer. He was not drinking. As they were departing, Mr. Charalambides yelled at one of the club’s owners that they were leaving. A very intoxicated patron at the bar took this to be a rude comment directed at him. This individual was a boxer who has unsuccessfully tried out for the 2004 Greek Olympic team.

The patron confronted Mr. Charalambides and a verbal dispute occurred which quickly escalated into a physical fight. The patron quickly got the upper hand. Despite this fact, a number of his friends joined in and Mr. Charalambides was punched, kicked and knocked to the floor on his back.

Mr. Charalambides states that while he was being pummeled on the ground he noticed a gun that had been dropped in the fracas by one of his assailants. He grabbed it and shot two of the men beating him. Both men were seriously injured but survived.

Mr. Charalambides fled the scene leaving his cell phone and car keys. He was arrested a number of days later and charged with numerous offences. Ultimately, he pled guilty to two counts of aggravated assault by wounding and one count of using a prohibited weapon during the commission of an indictable offence.

In her reasons for sentencing, the Honourable Madam Justice Croll found that the facts of the case did not lead her to find high moral culpability on the part of Mr. Charalambides. Rather, she concluded that he had used the handgun in self-defence in a situation he did not create. Nevertheless, in the circumstances the use of the firearm amounted to excessive force.

On March 12, 2008, Mr. Charalambides was sentenced to four and a half years for the aggravated assaults and one year consecutive for the use of a firearm while committing an indictable offence. With credit for pretrial custody this translated into a penitentiary term totaling 32 months. He was also prohibited from possessing a firearm or weapon for life.

Mr. Charalambides testified that while he was in pretrial custody he started to seriously reflect on his life. He was very remorseful for what had happened. He recognized that he had a number of serious personal issues to address.

After sentencing, Mr. Charalambides was transferred to Millhaven Penitentiary for assessment. He was subsequently moved to Joyceville. There he successfully completed a violence prevention program. He started attending Christian fellowship meetings. He spoke to many “lifers” who encouraged him to get his act together and do something with his life.

Mr. Charalambides was initially assigned to work as a cleaner. However, when it became clear that he had some computer skills he was placed in the computer room. There he assisted other inmates doing legal research, filing grievances, completing parole applications and writing letters. He created a web page for inmates with basic legal information. He developed an interest in the law.

Mr. Charalambides completed his incarceration without incident and was released on mandatory supervision in 2010. At the time he was classified as a minimum security risk.

Prior to his release Mr. Charalambides underwent a psychological assessment. It found “…no evidence of any thought disorder or unusual behavior.” He was assessed as not meeting the criteria for psychopathic personality. It was also observed “…there is no information to suggest that Mr. Charalambides has been involved in any violence, or criminal activity for that matter, while incarcerated.”

During his period of supervision, Mr. Charalambides successfully completed a Community Maintenance Program designed to provide participants with tools to identify personal risk factors and develop strategies to reduce the possibility of recidivism.

He began working at a series of part-time jobs. He returned to Humber College changing his major to Paralegal Education. He became an active church participant. He began to attend regular therapeutic counseling.

Mr. Charalambides made a number of lifestyle changes. He stopped associating with people who were involved in a criminal lifestyle. He no longer goes to bars or nightclubs. He has made a commitment to be honest and seek advice when he is not clear about the correct course of action. He married and is now expecting his first child.

As part of his paralegal program, Mr. Charalambides did a successful placement with a law firm doing immigration work. As well, he was hired for a one-year contract with the Conflict Resolution Program at the Warden Woods Community Centre. That Program promotes the mediation of disputes and public education on the resolution of conflicts.

Mr. Charalambides successfully completed his Humber paralegal course and applied for his licence with the Law Society. He made full disclosure of his criminal history. He submitted written responses to questions concerning his character and was extensively interviewed by a Law Society investigator.

Key conclusions

Much of Mr. Charalambides subsequent conduct is described above and will not be repeated, however a few additional points are worth noting.

Mr. Charalambides has not been charged with any new criminal offences since October of 2006.

Essentially for 10 years his conduct has been unblemished. This is a significant amount of time in the life of a relatively young man. Murphy v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2015 ONLSTH 51 (CanLII) at para. 34

His conduct has been exemplary in many ways. It demonstrates a high degree of self-reflection over the course of many years and hard earned personal insight. His actions have been honourable, ethical and mature.

 Further, it is clear that Mr. Charalambides has taken great pains to create a strong web of supports that he has no hesitation in accessing. He is clearly aware of the challenges he faces but is more than willing to do what is required to be a paralegal, so that he can assist individuals in need in a meaningful way in what he sees as an honourable profession.

Given the above, we are satisfied that Mr. Charalambides has met the onus of establishing on the balance of probabilities that he is of good character as of the date of this application.

(Mike Frisch)

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