Former Hawkesbury lawyer loses his licence

Par Raymond Berthiaume
Former Hawkesbury lawyer loses his licence
Ray Lachapelle

Last month the Law Society of Ontario approved a recommendation from its disciplinary tribunal to revoke the former Hawkesbury lawyer’s licence to practice law. The Law Society explained the ruling was for “conduct unbecoming” a member of the Law Society.

The February 24 ruling resulted from the Law Society’s own investigation into the facts of a police case that resulted in Lachapelle’s conviction for his involvement in a conspiracy to import cocaine.

In 2018 a Halifax court found Lachapelle guilty for his involvement in a cocaine-trafficking case. The RCMP and other police agencies joined in an international drug-trafficking investigation, code-named “Operation Halfpenny”. The investigation began in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia but proved over 18 months of investigation and evidence collection to extend across Canada and involved efforts to import cocaine into the country.

The case finished with a police raid that collected about two dozen firearms, including three listed as prohibited weapons, a large amount of ammunition, a stolen car, and a large amount of hashish, money, and tactial equipment.

Lachapelle and several others were arrested in 2017 in Nova Scotia. He made bail and returned to his Hawkesbury law office to continue working with clients. He was later brought back to Nova Scotia and in during a court hearing in Halifax found guilty on charges related to the conspiracy to import drugs into Canada and given a seven-year sentence.

The Ontario Law Society launched its own investigation of Lachapelle’s action, including both his involvement in the drug trafficking conspiracy and also past suspect behaviour.

In 1999 the Law Society investigated and found Lachapelle guilty of misconduct as a lawyer because he misappropriated $71,000 from the estate of his great-aunt to pay for cocaine for his own personal use. At that time the Law Society chose to suspend Lachapelle’s licence to practice for two months, rather than disbar him. In its report on its decision, the Law Society noted that Lachapelle’s drug addiction was not a secret and that “it appears that most of his cleients, much of the greater Hawkesbury community, all of his staff, and the entire local legal community knew of his addiction.”

Lachapelle remains in prison. When he is released, he is barred from legal practice.

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