How Toronto Lawyer’s Website Trivialized Sex Crimes For Nearly A Decade
Jun 29, 2018 11:11
A lawyer in Toronto violated the rules of advertising according to the Law Society of Upper Canada by trivializing sex crimes on his website. Defense lawyer Craig Penney is set to face disciplinary actions by the law society tribunal for his representation of the sex crimes “case studies” that he posted to his website from the years of 2014-2017.
Using sex crimes “case studies,” Penney attempted to attract perspective male clients. His tactic was aimed at men who had been accused of sex crimes. Penney intended to make sex crimes trivial by minimizing their characteristics.
His website was also intentionally vague, leaving out any details regarding reports of the victims. One “case study” described a man who was just looking through a woman’s home when he had a wardrobe malfunction in which his penis was “accidentally” exposed.
For a criminal attorney in Toronto, the facts behind the “case study” were entirely different from the original police report. In the report on file, a man pretended to be a plumber looking for the source of a leak to gain entrance into a woman’s home. Once there, he pulled his pants down to expose himself and rubbed up against her.
This disturbing case was not the only one in which the facts were falsified. Investigators sifted through Penney’s website and the websites of other attorneys and found that there was an epidemic of trivialization of sex crimes; they also found similar ongoings in various areas of Canada.
A professor of law at the Dalhousie University set out with a mission to find out how many websites, like Penneys, used stereotypical assumptions to lure in sex crime offenders and make them feel as if the lawyer could make their case look to the court like it was no big deal.
What Elaine Craig discovered is that there were countless questionable case studies on both Penney’s site and the websites of many other attorneys. They were all informed that their websites were against the professional code of conduct for advertising and should be removed immediately.
As a graduate from York University Osgoode Hall law school, Penney has defended a vast array of clients throughout his career. One of those clients was a security guard who killed two men by shooting them in 2015.
Penney was contacted for comment but had nothing to say. He is on record admitting that he used levity to present case studies to prospective clients. Penney insisted that he used the case studies as a hypothetical situation where the facts of a case can be different than they appear.
Although many people believe that he intentionally changed the facts to misrepresent the events, he maintains that he is doing nothing unethical.
The purpose of the Law Society of Upper Canada’s advertising code of conduct is to ensure that law advertising is in the best interest of the public at large. By Mr. Penney misrepresenting the facts of real cases to make them appear acceptable, he is trivializing a severe problem in society. The ads, according to the code, are unprofessional at best.
The website also portrays Penney as aggressive, which is also strictly prohibited according to advertising rules. The law society maintains that it is investigating the allegations against Penney, as well as looking into websites across Canada to ensure that they have the integrity that is expected of them.
Since lawyers represent fairness and equity in Canada, it is integral that they maintain the utmost respect, and when advertising, they not make false claims or trivialize sensitive and potentially harmful information.
There is a fine line to walk when it comes to advertising your law practice. It is okay to give defendants and victims scenarios and advice, but it must be done so respectfully; it must also be beneficial to society as a whole. Penney uses advertising as a way to lure in defendants by making serious crimes seem acceptable and appropriate when they are not.
The type of charges that Penney will face depends on what the tribunal decides, but it might put other defense lawyers in Canada on notice when they are describing the severe nature of a sex crime or other criminal offense.
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