The Law Society of Upper Canada has rejected the appeal of a former energy and environmental lawyer’s disbarment after his conviction for the sexual exploitation of two teenage sisters.
Peter Budd argued the original disciplinary panel was wrong to refuse him permission to introduce evidence that one of his victims had recanted some of her testimony from the trial.
Budd also unsuccessfully argued the panel should have given more weight to the evidence of his character witnesses and the consequences he had already suffered as a result of the conviction.
“We have found that the hearing panel was reasonable in its ultimate decision and the penalty it imposed,” Bencher Bonnie Tough wrote on behalf of four members of the appeal panel.
In a partial dissent, Bencher Bradley Wright, the fifth member of the appeal panel, said the original proceedings involved several errors, including the failure to admit the evidence of recantation, but decided he couldn’t disagree with the ultimate conclusion.
“The appellant brought opprobrium upon the profession,” Wright wrote. “Revocation of licence is deserved as a matter of general deterrence and of maintaining public confidence in the legal profession.”
A London, Ont., judge found Budd had sexual relationships with two sisters, A.D. and K.D., with whom he was in a position of trust and authority. A sexual exploitation charge related to a third sister, M.D., was dropped, as were three charges of sexual assault against the girls. All three were between the ages of 14 and 18 during the four-year period in which the offences occurred.
“I believe all three of the sisters consented,” Superior Court Justice David Little wrote in his 2006 decision. “The accused made them individually feel important, they looked up to him, and they were each in their own mind secretly flattered by his attention. They willingly made themselves available to him.”
According to Little’s ruling, the separated father of three boys “swept into the lives of the D. family” in the late 1990s when he bought a hobby farm near their own property.
He quickly “worked his way into being an integral part” of the family’s life while attending functions and hiring the girls to work with him.
Between 2000 and 2003, Budd had sexual relationships with all three girls. He was in his early 40s at the time. The middle sister, A.D., worked for Budd as a receptionist at his law firm and lived at his home as a tenant, sometimes for free.
They also travelled together to England in 2001 with the permission of her parents.
Budd also took A.D. and K.D., the youngest sister, on a trip to Walt Disney World in 2002 with his own three boys.
Things came to a head when Budd confessed to the girl’s mother that he was falling in love with A.D. After discussions among the family revealed Budd’s relationships with each of the sisters, they went to the police.
Budd received a sentence of nine months in prison.
He served about three months in jail and the remainder in the community. His appeal was dismissed and he lost his bid for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In December 2009, the LSUC revoked his licence to practise law. The hearing panel acknowledged Budd’s contributions to society during an “outstanding career” and his slim chances of reoffending but was unsatisfied by the lack of “any meaningful expression of remorse.”
“We are left with a lawyer who has had an outstanding career but who has committed a crime and serious misconduct for a member of the profession that is based upon principles of trust and the protection of the weak and vulnerable,” wrote panel chairman Thomas Heintzman.
One of Budd’s witnesses at the hearing, Dr. John Bradford, testified that the lawyer had accepted moral responsibility and had some insight into the wrongful nature of his conduct. In his appeal, Budd argued the law society’s cross-examination of Bradford had implied the lawyer had minimized his culpability by exploring his view that his criminal trial had been unfair.
During re-examination of Bradford, Budd’s lawyer had attempted to introduce a statement by A.D. in which she recanted her evidence at the criminal trial. Both sides had agreed before the hearing not to admit it partly because it could have meant calling A.D. as a witness.
Budd’s lawyer argued the evidence would help explain his client’s feelings about the unfairness of his trial and contradict the inference that he demonstrated a lack of remorse. However, the panel disagreed and refused the evidence. The appeal panel agreed, noting that the Ontario Court of Appeal had also rejected the evidence as a ground for appeal in the criminal case.
In his partial dissent, Wright said the panel had put “inconvenience ahead of fairness” and denied Budd the ability to make a full reply by rejecting the evidence. The law society had raised the imputation “with no real need to do so,” he wrote.
“A person convicted and sentenced partly on evidence later recanted would understandably feel that the conviction, or at least the sentence, was based partly on unfairness,” Wright wrote.
But Wright said he believed the introduction of the evidence would have made no difference to the outcome of the hearing.
The appeal members also rejected Budd’s claim that the original panel had failed to give enough weight to his character evidence as well as the prior consequences of his conviction, including the loss of his practice and his imprisonment.
“It is not enough, particularly in a case of breach of trust, for an appellant to come forward and say, in effect, ‘I have been punished enough,’” Tough wrote.
Budd couldn’t be reached for comment.
For more on this story, see "LSUC disbars three lawyers."